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Morphological awareness and reading achievement in university students

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 April 2019

Jamie L. Metsala*
Mount Saint Vincent University
Rauno Parrila
Macquarie University
Nicole J. Conrad
Saint Mary’s University
S. Hélène Deacon
Dalhousie University Life Sciences Centre
*Corresponding author. Email: Jamie.


We examined morphological awareness and reading achievement in university students in two ways. First, students with and without a self-reported history of reading difficulties were compared on word reading and text reading achievement, and on the reading-related skills of morphological awareness, orthographic processing, and phonological processing. Second, the unique contribution of morphological awareness to reading achievement was examined for a larger sample of first-year university students. Students with a self-reported history of reading difficulties (n = 54) showed moderate to large gaps in each area of reading achievement, and timed reading comprehension appeared more severely impaired than word-reading efficiency. These students had a deficit in morphological awareness that persisted even when (a) phonological awareness and orthographic processing skills, or (b) word-reading accuracy were statistically controlled. In the larger first-year sample (N = 211), morphological awareness contributed to variance in word reading beyond that accounted for by phonological awareness and orthographic processing. Furthermore, of the reading-related skills, only morphological awareness made a unique contribution to reading comprehension beyond variance accounted for by word reading. Taken together, these results demonstrate that morphological awareness makes unique contributions to university students’ reading achievement and is an additional difficulty for students with a self-reported history of reading difficulties.

Original Article
© Cambridge University Press 2019. 

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