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Morphological priming effects on children’s spelling

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Abstract

Previous research has suggested that children in the early grades of primary school do not have much awareness of morphemes. In this study, a priming paradigm was used to try to detect early signs of morphological representation of stems through a spelling task presented to Portuguese children (N = 805; age range 6–9 years). Primes shared the stem with the targets and contained well-articulated, stressed vowels; the stems of the target words and pseudo-words contained non-stressed schwa vowels, which typically result in spelling difficulties. If priming proved effective, the well-articulated vowels in the prime should result in an improvement in the spelling of the schwa vowels. Primes were presented in two conditions: in only-oral or in oral-plus-written form. Effectiveness of priming was assessed by comparison with a no-priming condition. For both words and pseudowords, there was a significant interaction between priming effects and grade. No priming effects were detected in 6- and 7-year-old children; oral-plus-written priming produced higher rates of correct vowel spelling for 8- and 9-year-olds; only-oral priming was effective in improving the vowel spelling of 9-year-olds. Thus older children can use morphological information under priming conditions when the prime and the target are not phonologically transparent but there is no evidence to suggest that younger children do so.

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Correspondence to Joao Manuel Rosa.

Appendix 1: Sentences in the spelling task by type of stimulus pair

Appendix 1: Sentences in the spelling task by type of stimulus pair

Notes: The numbers on the left of the sentence indicate the order of the stimulus in the list. The same sentences were used in all conditions; in the no-priming condition the related stem was replaced by an unrelated word or expression, which appears in brackets. The target stimuli are underlined here but were not written on the children’s papers because they were dictated. The pseudo-word pair appears at the end of the sentence; they replace the corresponding expressions in the sentence.

Type 1: Well-articulated vowel spelled as “o” in the base form; schwa vowel pronounced as /w/ in the target stimulus

  • 1- Ele está a tocar tambor (pandeireta); ele está a tamborilar. (fazer candor–candorilar)

  • 5- És um grande maroto (malandro); só fazes marotices. (ranoto–ranotices)

  • 7- Que bom aroma (cheirinho); este café é mesmo aromático. (biroma–biromático)

  • 12- Fiz um bom negócio (venda); não há melhor negociante do que eu. (gabócio–gabociante)

  • 9- O teu amigo é um grande cabriola (atrevido); anda sempre a cabriolar. (bacriola–bacriolar)

  • 16- Estou ao seu dispor (se precisar de mim); estou à sua disposição. (pistor–pistorição)

  • 18- Estás sempre no gozo (brincadeira); isso é que é gozar. (abogo–abogar)

  • 21- Ele ganhou o concurso do maior bigode (barba); que grande bigodaça que ele tinha. (gabode–gabodaça)

Type 2. Well-articulated vowel spelled as “e” in the base form; schwa vowel pronounced as /j/ in the target stimulus

  • 3- São horas da ceia (de comer); vamos todos cear. (badeia–badear)

  • 8- Os pássaros chilreiam (saltam); estão a chilrear no telhado. (chulbeiam–chulbear)

  • 10- Na minha terra caçavam-se baleias (a minha terra chama-se); por isso se chama Baleal. (golneias–Golneal)

  • 13- Eu saboreio (gosto de) o gelado; estou a saborear o gelado. (namuteio–namutear)

  • 15- Eu manuseio o martelo; (estou a) manusear. (namuteio–namutear)

  • 17- Eu penteio (trato) do cabelo; estou a pentear o cabelo. (banzeio–banzear)

  • 20- Não tenhas receio (medo) do cão; não há nada a recear. (reveio–revear)

  • 23- A aranha fez uma teia (estendeu os seus fios); parece mesmo um tear. (tabeia–tabear)

Type 3. Well-articulated vowel spelled as “e” in the base form; vowel’s pronunciation omitted in the target stimulus

  • 2- Uso um martelo (uma tábua) para martelar. (barfelo–barfelar)

  • 4- Um profeta (adivinho) é alguém que sabe profetizar o futuro. (troveta–trovetizar)

  • 6- Ter inveja (repartir com os outros não) é ser invejoso. (manfeja–manfejoso)

  • 11- O papel (lápis) é comprado na papelaria. (bramel–bramelaria)

  • 14- Afastei a aranha com um chinelo (a aranha levou uma); levou uma chinelada. (binelo–binelada)

  • 19- A pele (pata) do meu gato é muito peluda. (bene–benuda)

  • 22- Comprei uma cautela (disse bom-dia) ao cauteleiro. (gaudela–gaudeleiro)

  • 24- A coberta (colcha) da minha cama está por cima do cobertor. (roperta–ropertor)

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Rosa, J.M., Nunes, T. Morphological priming effects on children’s spelling. Read Writ 21, 763–781 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-007-9091-9

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Keywords

  • Morphology
  • Morphological priming
  • Spelling
  • Spelling of stems