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Phonemic—Morphemic dissociation in university students with dyslexia: an index of reading compensation?


A phonological deficit constitutes a primary cause of developmental dyslexia, which persists into adulthood and can explain some aspects of their reading impairment. Nevertheless, some dyslexic adults successfully manage to study at university level, although very little is currently known about how they achieve this. The present study investigated at both the individual and group levels, whether the development of another oral language skill, namely, morphological knowledge, can be preserved and dissociated from the development of phonological knowledge. Reading, phonological, and morphological abilities were measured in 20 dyslexic and 20 non-dyslexic university students. The results confirmed the persistence of deficits in phonological but not morphological abilities, thereby revealing a dissociation in the development of these two skills. Moreover, the magnitude of the dissociation correlated with reading level. The outcome supports the claim that university students with dyslexia may compensate for phonological weaknesses by drawing on morphological knowledge in reading.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge Jennifer Martin for having allowed us to use her materials and Mélody Zira for her help in testing participants. In addition, we would like to thank all the participants in this study. Special thanks are due to Professor John R. Crawford for giving us permission to use and disseminate his single-case study method. Finally, we would also like to thank Florence Poracchia-George (CERTA, Salvator Hospital Marseille, France) for helping with the recruitment of dyslexic participants.

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Correspondence to Eddy Cavalli or Pascale Colé.



Items for the suffixation decision task

Suffixed word Pseudosuffixed word
French item English translation French item English translation
Chorale Choral Mistral Mistral
Lamelle Strip Pirouette Pirouette
Noisette Hazelnut Mirabelle Mirabelle plum
Provençal Provencal Salopette Dungarees
Citronnelle Citronella Sidéral Sidereal
Vinaigrette Vinaigrette Coccinelle Ladybird
Rural Rural Guillerette Cheerful
Nasale Nasal Oral Oral
Sauterelle Grasshopper Bretelle Strap
Courgette Courgette Charnière Hinge
Nominal Nominal Cardinal Cardinal
Citadelle Citadel Hirondelle Swallow
Rondelette Plump Montgolfière Hot air balloon
Frontal Frontal Renard Fox
Ombrelle Parasol Mercure Mercury
Chatière Cat flap Stature Stature
Terminal Terminal Épinard Spinach
Violoncelle Cello Galipette Somersault
Gazinière Gas cooker Envergure Wingspan
Aigrette Egret Étendard Standard
Petard Firecracker Quenelle Quenelle
Jeunette Young girl Gazette Gazette
Pendulette Little clock Feudal Feudal
Moisissure Mold Flanelle Flannel

Items for the suffixed word detection task (morphologically complex words are in bold)

French items English translation
Chaussette–lunette–omelette Socktelescopeomelet
Truelle–rondelle–gazelle Trowelslicegazelle
Aquarelle–mortadelle–varicelle Watercolormortadellachickenpox
Guépard–hussard–têtard Cheetahhussartadpole
Lanière–glacière–tanière Strapcoolerden
Crevette–maquette–boulette Prawnmodellittle ball
Escampette–ciboulette–maisonnette Go away”–chivelittle house
Clochette–squelette–baguette Small bellskeletonbaguette
Aisselle–gamelle–tourelle Armpitmetal dishturret
Tourterelle–balancelle–ribambelle Turtledoveswing seatbunch
Musical–carnaval–arsenal Musicalcarnivalarsenal
Glissière–chaumière–paupière Slidethatched cottageeyelid

Items for the phonemic awareness task

Phoneme deletion

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Cavalli, E., Duncan, L.G., Elbro, C. et al. Phonemic—Morphemic dissociation in university students with dyslexia: an index of reading compensation?. Ann. of Dyslexia 67, 63–84 (2017).

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  • Dissociation
  • Morpheme awareness
  • Phoneme awareness
  • University students with dyslexia