Morphological effects in children’s spelling of French words
Abstract The present study examined whether primary school children represent morphological information when spelling French words that have silent-consonant endings (e.g., chat). Children in grades 2 (n = 57) and 4 (n = 55) spelled regular, morphological, and deep words. The morphological and deep words differed in the presence or absence of derivatives that revealed the nature of the silent– consonant ending. As expected, regular words were the easiest to spell whereas morphological words (for which the silent consonant could be derived) were easier to spell than were deep words (for which the silent consonant must be memorized). Children’s linguistic knowledge of morphology made a contribution to their spelling of morphological words thaT was independent of reading experience, vocabulary, spelling ability (i.e., spelling regular words), and phoneme awareness.
The present study investigated whether young primary school children represent morphological information when spelling French words that have silent-consonant endings.
STRATEGY-USE IN SPELLING WORDS
Examination of children’s attempts to spell words reveals that they use a variety of strategies and do not simply rely on rote memorization. Children may strategically use three types of knowledge when they spell words: knowledge of sound-to-letter correspondences, knowledge of the orthography, and knowledge of the morphology of the language. Most research on young children’s spelling has investigated the role of phonological processes (e.g., Read, 1986; Sprenger-Charolles, Siegel, & Bechennec, 1997; Treiman, 1993). Young children spell words by using their phonological knowledge of spoken words and mapping it onto their limited knowledge of the alphabet, either letter names or letter sounds (Ehri, 1986; Read, 1986). As their knowledge of the alphabet increases, children’s spelling attempts represent the entire phonological structure of words, albeit in an unconventional manner (Ehri, 1986).
Recent evidence suggests that spellers are also sensitive to nonphonological aspects of the spelling system. One such aspect is their knowledge of orthographic patterns in written words. Treiman (1993) examined the invented spelling of children in grade 1 and showed that the children had some knowledge of the orthography of the English language. For example, children’s spelling attempts do not include double consonants at the beginning of words.
There is also a limited amount of research that shows that English-speaking children are sensitive to another non– phonological aspect of the spelling system, namely, the morphological information conveyed in written words. Presumably, morphological relations among words allow children to choose the correct spelling from plausible alternatives (Leybaert & Alegria, 1995). This is the case, at least in some situations, for children in the early primary grades (Treiman, 1993; Treiman & Cassar, 1996). Moreover, there is a developmental increase in children’s ability to appreciate and represent morphological information in their spelling of words. Nunes, Bryant, and Bindman (199 found that children’s capacity to use the inflectional morpheme ed to represent and generalize the past tense of regular verbs increased from grades 2 to 4. Similarly, Carlisle (1984) found an increase from grades 4 to 8 in children’s capacity to take advantage of derivational relations in spelling words (also see Beers & Beers, 1992; Sterling, 1983).
Waters, Bruck, and Malus-Abramowitz (1988) compared, among other word categories, children’s spelling of three kinds of words: Regular, morphologic, and opaque (which they called strange) words. Regular words contained consistent phoneme-grapheme patterns (e.g., publish), morphological words contained orthographic information that is analogous to their corresponding derivatives (e.g., musical), and opaque words contained rare orthographic patterns (e.g., laughter). Presumably, children would rely on the consistent phoneme-to-grapheme conversion rules to spell regular words whereas they might rely on derivational relations to spell morphological words. In contrast, opaque words would need to be retrieved from memory. Waters et al. reported that words that contained regular phonemegrapheme correspondences were the easiest to spell. In addition, children in grades 3 to 6 spelled words that contained morphological information more easily than words that contained rare orthographic patterns (opaque words). These findings suggest that grade 3 children can appreciate the morphological relations among words.
Leybaert and Alegria (1995) conducted a similar study with French-speaking children in grades 2 and 4. Their results showed a different developmental pattern. Children in grade 2 did not seem to use a morphological strategy in their spelling as there was no difference between spelling morphological and opaque words. Appreciation for derivational relations appeared only in grade 4. A follow-up study by Leybaert and Content (1995) refined this developmental pattern by showing that a difference between spelling morphological and opaque words appeared in grade 2 for low-frequency words whereas a morphological advantage for high-frequency words was present in grade 4 only. Leybaert and Content concluded that the younger children did not make use of morphological information.
The conclusion that younger children do not appreciate morphological information is based on the lack of any significant difference between morphological and opaque words, which, in turn, is contingent on one’s definition of opaque words. In the Leybaert studies, opaque words were defined as those containing rare orthographic patterns (Leybaert & Alegria, 1995; Leybaert & Content, 1995). However, a more precise selection of opaque words might provide a more sensitive test of whether young children can use a morphological strategy in spelling. The present research provided such a test.
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN SPELLING WORDS
There have been some attempts to understand individual differences in spelling words. This research revealed that children’s understanding or awareness of morphology is linked to their general spelling performance (Derwing, Smith, & Wiebe, 1995) and that the relation persists even after controlling for children’s age and vocabulary (Fowler & Liberman, 1995). Recently, Nunes et al. (199 have examined the specific link between morphological knowledge (which they called grammatical knowledge) and children’s spelling of the inflectional morpheme ed to indicate the past tense. They found that children’s morphological awareness, as measured by a word analogy task (producing derivatives based on an exemplar pair of words), contributed to children’s correct spelling of the morpheme ed that was independent of their age, intelligence, and spelling performance on a previous test. Taken together, these findings suggest that children’s linguistic knowledge of morphology makes an important contribution to the development of spelling ability.
Our knowledge of individual differences in spelling in French is more limited. There are reports investigating differences between good and poor spellers (SprengerCharolles, Siegel, & Bechennec, 1998), but there are a limited number of published reports investigating the role of linguistic knowledge in explaining individual differences in spelling skills in French (e.g., Alegria & Mousty, 1996). The present research assessed whether the relation between children’s morphological awareness and their spelling of morphological words held for French-speaking children.
THE PRESENT STUDY
One goal of the present research was to examine whether primary school children are sensitive to the morphological information that is often captured in the orthography of the French language. This possibility was studied by assessing how children spell words that contain morphological information represented by silent consonants at the end of words. It is of interest to study how children spell words in French given the nature of its orthographic system. One particularity of French is that the written language conveys more morphological information than does the spoken language because morphological information is often not pronounced. Consider the plural of nouns which is most often marked with a silent s at the end of nouns. Totereau, Thevenin, and Fayol (199 reported that it is not until grade 3 that French-speaking children consistently and correctly mark the plural of nouns.
The present study investigated how children spell words that contain silent consonants as their final letter. In some cases, the silent consonants indicated morphological relations among words. For example, the silent d in the adjective grand represents the links with the feminine form grande, the verb grandir, as well as the noun grandeur. The morphological information in many words such as grand, however, is not revealed in the spoken language because that information is represented by silent consonants at the end of words (e.g., chat, grin, camp). Morphological words were those for which derivatives revealed the silent-consonant ending.
There is another type of word that contains silent consonant endings – one for which the silent consonant ending must be memorized because the derivatives do not reveal the consonant (e.g., tabac versus tabagie versus tabatiere) or because any morphological relations have been lost in the history of the language. For example, there is no derivative for the word foulard; presumably, the presence of a silent d would have to be memorized. Another example is the word prix for which the derivative precieux is so different that it is probably not helpful in learning that prix has a silent x at the end. In the present study, this type of word was referred to as deep. Hence, the present study differs from that of Leybaert and Alegria (1995) and Leybaert and Content (1995) in the definition of deep and opaque words. In the latter studies, opaque words were those that included a segment that occurred rarely in the French orthography. In the present study, the morphological and deep words differ only in the presence or absence of derivatives that reveal the nature of the silent-consonant ending.
Another goal of the present research was to assess whether children’s linguistic knowledge about morphology would contribute to their successful spelling of French words with morphological endings. In order to provide a conservative test of this hypothesis, the analyses controlled for variables known to be associated with spelling such as children’s phoneme awareness, vocabulary, and exposure to reading material.
French-speaking children were recruited from schools in Orleans, Ontario. The participants were 57 children (30 girls and 27 boys) in grade 2, and 55 children (35 girls and 20 boys) in grade 4. On average, the grade 2 children were 7 years 6 months (SD – 4 mo) and the grade 4 children were 9 years 7 months (SD – 4 mo). All the children were native speakers of French, and French was the language of instruction in schools.
Spelling. Children spelled 40 words divided into three categories. Regular words (N = 10 words) were those that did not include any silent letters and could be spelled using phoneme-to-grapheme knowledge (e.g., tiroir). Regular words were included to provide continuity across research (Leybaert & Alegria, 1995; Leybaert & Content, 1995; Waters et al., 1988). The remaining 30 words included a silent consonant as the final letter of each word. Morphological words (N = 20 words) were those for which the final consonant could be deduced by using derivatives. For example, the silent d in bavard could be deduced from the feminine form bavarde. There were two subcategories of morphological words: Feminine and nominal. The morphological-feminine words (1v = 10) were those for which a feminine form revealed the silent consonant (e.g., gentil, gentille). The morphological-nominal words (r1= 10) were those for which a verb or a noun derived from the target noun revealed the silent consonant (e.g., fusil, fusille, fusillade). Words in the Feminine subcategory could also include verbal or nominal derivatives (e.g., bavard, bavarde, bavarder, bavardage), but none of the words in the Nominal subcategory included a feminine form. Hence, the two subcategories differed in the presence or absence of feminine forms. Deep words (1v = 10) were those for which the silent– consonant ending could not be deduced (e.g., prix, tabac). The categories and subcategories of words did not differ significantly in terms of written word frequencies (M = 347.0) as well as the number of letters (M = 53), syllables (M = 1.7) , or orthographic neighbours (M = 1.6), all ps > .33 (Content, Mousty, & Radeau, 1990). The reliability for this task was good, Cronbach’s alpha = .93. The 40 words are presented in Appendix A.
Children listened to each word presented individually, then in a sentence that clarified its meaning, followed by a repetition of the word. Children’s responses were scored in two ways: once to reflect the correct spelling of the entire word and once to reflect the correct spelling of the silent– consonant ending. For the first score, each word spelled correctly received 1 point. For the second score, the words containing silent consonants in which the silent consonant was spelled correctly received 1 point. One word (aout for which the t is silent in French Canada) was removed from the deep word list because it was written on posters on the walls of three classrooms and some children looked at the posters during testing. Percentages, not raw scores, were used in subsequent analyses.
Morphological awareness. A word analogy task of the type a:b::c:d was selected to measure morphological awareness because Nunes et al. (1997) found that it was a better predictor of spelling compared to other morphological tasks. In this task, children are given a pair of words that are linked by a morphological relation (e.g., the noun danse and the derived verb danser). Then, they are given the first item (e.g., the noun saut) of a second pair that has the same type of morphological relation as the first pair. Children are to deduce the missing item (e.g., the verb sauter). The morphological relations tested were: masculine to feminine form, noun to verb, noun to other noun, and adjective to adverb. In all cases, the target pair of items included a silent consonant ending. The task included 3 practice items and 12 test items which are presented in Appendix A. The reliability for this task was adequate, Cronbach’s alpha = .72.
Phoneme awareness. Children’s sensitivity to the phonology of spoken French was measured with a phoneme deletion task. Children were asked to say what word is left when a specified phoneme is removed. Children were asked to remove phonemes from the beginning or medial portions of one-, two-, and three-syllable words. Children were given practice items for which they received feedback. The task included 3 practice items and 15 test items which are presented in Appendix A. The reliability for this task was good, Cronbach’s alpha = .83.
Vocabulary. Children’s receptive vocabulary was measured with the Echelle de vocabulaire en images Peabody (Dunn, Therien-Whalen, & Dune, 1993). The norms for the test are from a French Canadian sample and the average reported reliability for the test is .81 (Dunn et al.). The standardized scores were used in the analyses.
Print exposure. Print exposure was measured by asking children which titles they recognized from a list of popular children’s books. Performance on the lists was interpreted as reflecting children’s relative exposure to children’s literature. Similar checklist measures, developed by Stanovich and his colleagues to assess print exposure in children and adults, have been shown to be both reliable and valid (e.g., Cunningham & Stanovich, 1993; Stanovich & West, 1989; for measures in French, see Senechal, in press).
There were 29 titles of popular children’s books and 11 foils in the checklist. Titles of popular children’s books were taken from three lists of favourite books obtained from three surveys conducted yearly from 1996 to 1998 (Communication Jeunesse, 1996-1997, 1997-1998, and 1998-1999). The respondents were 10,000 French-Canadian children aged 6 to 12 who belonged to book-reading clubs. All the books in each of the three lists were selected. These books were fiction books published in Canada. We ensured that the foils were not real titles by verifying that they were not in the public library database.
The children received a list of titles and were told to only check those they recognized. Guessing was discouraged by telling children that the list included titles that were invented. The experimenter read each title aloud to ensure that children’s reading of each title was not a limiting factor. We found that children rarely checked foils, indicating that they followed our instructions to avoid guessing. The median number of foils checked was zero and the mean was 1.0. To correct for guessing, we calculated a derived score by subtracting the percentage of foils checked from the percentage of correct titles or authors checked for each list (Stanovich & West, 1989). Hereafter, we used the derived scores. The reliability for this task was good, Cronbach’s alpha = .87.
The spelling and print-exposure tasks were administered to groups of children in their regular classroom. The individually administered tasks were presented in the following order: the phoneme awareness, vocabulary, and morphological skills tasks. Group testing preceded individual testing in most cases. Testing was conducted from October to January.
STRATEGY USE IN SPELLING
Children’s performance on the spelling task was analyzed with mixed-factor ANOVAs. Supplemental analyses using the items, not the participants, as the key data were conducted, identified with the subscript i (i.e., F., and presented after the analyses by participants. Only the analyses by participants are described because the analyses by items revealed identical results or were not statistically significant. Probability values of .001 were used, unless specified otherwise.
Children’s correct spelling was analyzed with a 2 (grade: 2 versus 4) x 3 (word: regular versus morphological versus deep) repeated measures ANOVA, where grade was a between-participant factor and word was a within-participant factor. The analysis yielded a significant grade main effect and a significant Word main effect, Fs(l, 110 and 2, 220) = 78.63 and 180.91, MSEs = .09 and .02, respectively; Fi (1, 72, and 2, 72) = 28.65 and 11.67, MSE = .05, respectively. The Grade x Word interaction was not significant, F = 2.88; F^sub i^
As indicated in Table 1, children in grade 4 spelled more words correctly than did children in grade 2. Two planned orthogonal contrasts were conducted to examine the word main effect. As expected, regular words were spelled correctly more frequently than the words containing silent– consonant endings (i.e., the combination of morphological and deep words), F(1, 220) = 193.28, MSE = .03; F^sub i^(1,75) = 14.82, MSE = .07. In addition, morphological words were easier to spell than were deep words, F(1, 220) = 139.56, MsE – .01; F^sub i^ (1, 75) = 3.73, MsE – .07, p – .06. This finding suggests that words for which the silent consonant can be derived are easier to spell than words for which the silent consonant must be memorized. The analyses of the data for each grade separately revealed that this pattern of findings held for both grades.
A second ANOVA was conducted to analyze children’s correct spelling of the silent-consonant endings. Children’s correct spelling of the silent consonants in the morphological and deep words was analyzed with a 2 (grade: 2 versus 4) x 3 (word: Morphological-feminine versus morphological– nominal versus deep) repeated measures ANOVA with grade as a between-participant factor and word as a within-participant factor. The analysis yielded a significant grade main effect and a significant word main effect, Fs(1, 110 and 2, 220) – 79.50 and 106.07, MSES = .12 and .02, respectively; F^sub i^(1, 52, and 2, 52) – 36.65 and 5.05, MSE = .04, ps = .001 and .01, respectively. The Grade x Word interaction was also significant, F(2, 220) – 7.11; F^sub i^ > 1.00.
As presented in Table 1, children in grade 4 spelled more consonant-endings correctly than did children in grade 2. Comparisons were conducted to examine the word effect at each grade level. These comparisons revealed the same pattern of findings for each grade level. Morphological– feminine words were spelled correctly more frequently than were morphological-nominal words, Fs(1, 56 and 54) 13,07 and 26.99, MSE = .01, ps – .01 and .001, for the grade 2 and 4 children, respectively; F^sub i^(1, 52) = 1.12, p = .29. This finding suggests that a feminine form provided more accessible information about the silent consonant (e.g., epais, epaisse) than words for which the derivatives were other nouns or verbs (e.g., camp, camper). Morphological-nominal words were spelled correctly more frequently than were deep words, Fs(1, 56 and 54) – 22.22 and 64.24, MSE = .01, for the grade 2 and 4 children, respectively; Fi(1, 52) = 2.13, p – .15. This finding suggests that words with more complex derivatives provided more accessible information about the silent consonant than words for which there were no clear derivatives.
An analysis of spelling errors of word endings revealed that the most frequent error in spelling morphological words was the omission of the silent consonant (63% of errors). The remaining errors were the inclusion of an erroneous consonant ending (27%) and the inclusion of a silent a at the end (10%).
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN SPE.I.NG MORPHOLOGICAL WORDS
The second objective of the present study was to test whether children’s morphological knowledge made an independent contribution to children’s correct spelling of morphological words. The correlation coefficients among the criterion and predictor variables are indicated in Table 2. Children’s correct spelling of morphological words was positively and significantly related to their morphological awareness, as well as to their phoneme awareness, spelling of regular words, vocabulary, and print exposure.
A fixed-order hierarchical regression of children’s correct spelling of morphological words was conducted to control for a variety of variables associated with spelling. In the equation, children’s grade was entered first to control for differences in the performance of grade 2 and 4 children. Children’s print exposure was entered to account for the relation between frequency of reading and spelling skills (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1991). Children’s vocabulary skills were entered to test the link between morphological awareness and spelling beyond the contribution of children’s vocabulary size (Fowler & Liberman, 1995). It was also necessary to account for children’s general spelling ability to clarify any link between morphological awareness and spelling morphological words (Nunes et al., 1997). Children’s spelling performance of the regular words was used as a measure of spelling ability. Children’s phonological awareness skills were entered because of their association with spelling (Treiman, 1985). Finally, children’s morphological awareness skills were entered last in the equation.
In this very conservative model presented in Table 3, all the predictor variables accounted for a significant portion of variance. The equation accounted for 70% of the variance in children’s correct spelling of morphological words. Consistent with previous reports, children’s vocabulary skills, general spelling ability, as well as their phoneme awareness, made independent contributions to their spelling of morphological words. Of most interest, children’s morphological awareness, entered last in the equation, contributed 1.1% of unique variance that was independent of all the other predictor variables. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that children’s morphological knowledge plays a significant role in children’s spelling of French words that contain morphological information.
A test of whether the contribution of morphological knowledge is specific to spelling morphological words was conducted next. The criterion measure in this hierarchical analysis was children’s correct spelling of regular and deep words. As reported in Table 4, children’s awareness of morphology did not make an independent contribution to children’s spelling of regular and deep words after controlling for grade level, print exposure, vocabulary, and phoneme awareness. Thus, the contribution of morphological knowledge appears to be limited to spelling words with morphological information. Finally, examination of the standardized beta weights revealed that print exposure, vocabulary, and phoneme awareness each made an independent contribution to children’s spelling of regular and deep words.
The present research addressed two questions: first, whether the spelling of young French-speaking children reflects a sensitivity to morphological information that is often captured in the French orthography; second, whether linguistic knowledge such as morphological awareness contributes to children’s spelling of words that contain morphological information. The findings supported positive answers to both questions.
STRATEGY USE IN SPELLING
Children in the present study found it easiest to rely on regular phoneme-grapheme conversion rules as indicated by their superior performance when spelling regular words. Moreover, children in grades 2 and 4 were able to appreciate and represent morphological information in that morphological words were easier to spell than were deep words. This finding suggests that words for which the silent consonant can be derived are more easily accessible than words for which the silent consonant must be memorized. The finding is consistent with the notion that young primary school children can take advantage of morphological relations when spelling words (Waters et al., 1988). Presumably, derivatives help children select the correct spelling from among plausible alternatives (Leybaert & Alegria, 1995). However, the present study did not include a direct test of whether children consciously and explicitly used a morphological strategy. Future research could include detailed descriptions of children’s reports of strategy use during spelling.
It is also possible that the morphological advantage is due to orthographic knowledge that children acquire tacitly while reading (Ehri, 1986). Presumably, children are exposed more frequently to base forms of morphological words because the derivatives also include the base form (e.g., bavard, bavarde, bavarder, bavardage). In contrast, children’s knowledge of deep words necessarily comes from more limited exposure because these words have no derivatives (e.g., brebis). Hence, the more frequent exposure to the silent-endings in morphological words due to the overlap with their derivatives could facilitate the formation of accurate orthographic representations of the words. The role of print exposure is discussed in the next section.
The present findings are not consistent with those of Leybaert and Alegria (1995): French-speaking grade Z children in the present study were sensitive to morphological information whereas those of Leybaert and Alegria were not. The difference in results across the two studies is probably due to the type of deep words selected. In the present study, the morphological and deep words differed on one characteristic, that is, the presence or absence of a derivative that revealed the silent-consonant ending. This distinction provided a more sensitive test of whether grade 2 children can appreciate morphological information than that used in Leybaert and Alegria, where morphological words were contrasted to words containing rare orthographic patterns (see also Leybaert & Content, 1995). Hence, the present study revealed that, under certain conditions, grade 2 children include morphological information in their spelling.
In the present research, there were differences between two types of morphological words. Morphological words for which the feminine form revealed the silent consonant ending were spelled more easily than morphological words for which the derivatives were other nouns or verbs. The comparison of children’s performance across the two types of words extended the current understanding of how young children use morphological information when they spell words. The feminine form of words appears to be more accessible than complex derivatives, which is consistent with the early mastery of the feminine form in the acquisition of spoken French (Clark, 1985; and for similar difficulties in English, see Marsh, Friedman, Welch, & Desberg, 1980). Nonetheless, even words with complex derivatives are more easily accessible than words for which the final consonant has to be memorized.
The advantage of morphological-feminine words over morphological-nominal words has to be examined in light of the types of silent-consonant ending that were included. Recall that the feminine and nominal words were matched for word frequency as well as number of letters, syllables, and orthographic neighbours, but they were not matched in terms of type of silent-consonant ending. There appears to be a difference between the two subcategories when one examines the derivatives for the words in each category as a function of whether the consonant-ending is pronounced in a consistent fashion: The feminine list contains fewer inconsistent forms than does the nominal list. Specifically, three consonant-endings in the feminine list (epais, gentil, blanc) are inconsistent, but five endings in the nominal list (cadenas, tapir, repos, fusil, ran are inconsistent. The consistency of pronunciation of the consonant ending can be illustrated with the words ending with s. The s ending is pronounced as /s/ in epaisse, tapisse, cadenasse, but is pronounced as /z/ in repose. The possibility that the Feminine advantage is due to the difference in the number of consistent endings across the two subcategories can be assessed by examining the proportion of correct responses as a function of type of ending. Presumably, inconsistent endings should be more difficult than consistent endings for the two types of morphological words. The data presented in Appendix B was used to calculate the mean proportion of silent-consonants correctly spelled as a function of consistency for each subcategory. For the Feminine category, children’s performance on the inconsistent endings was superior (M = .63) to that on the consistent endings (M = .38), t(111) = 9.90. For the Nominal words, however, the reverse pattern was obtained (Ms = .25 and .49 for the inconsistent and the consistent endings, respectively), t(111) _ -11.11. The lack of a clear pattern across the two subcategories does not support the possibility that the morphological advantage of feminine words was confounded with the number of inconsistent consonant endings. Interestingly, the lack of a clear pattern suggests that children mark morphological information by using their orthographic knowledge rather than their knowledge of letter-sound correspondences (e.g., Treiman & Cassar, 1996).
Children’s spelling performance was generally poor, ranging from 35% for morphological words to 55% for regular words. This low level of performance suggests that building accurate orthographic representations takes time and that young primary school children might not take full advantage of regular phoneme-grapheme correspondence rules in conjunction with their orthographic knowledge. The low level of performance for morphological words also suggests that children do not take full advantage of their linguistic knowledge about morphology when they spell words (Treiman & Cassar, 1996).
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN SPELLING MORPHOLOGICAL WORDS
Children’s morphological awareness made a contribution to children’s spelling of morphological words that was independent of their reading experience, vocabulary, spelling ability (i.e., spelling regular words), and phoneme awareness. This finding extends that of Nurses et al. (1997, who examined the English past tense inflectional morpheme ed, in three ways. First, morphological awareness contributes to spelling morphological words that contain silent-consonant endings. Second, the present study was conducted using a sample of French-speaking children. Third, the test of the link between morphological knowledge and spelling controlled for more variables associated with spelling than has been done in the past (Derwing et al., 1995; Fowler & Liberman, 1995; Nurses et al., 1997).
Examination of the standardized beta weights in Table 3 revealed that general spelling ability (i.e., spelling regular words), vocabulary, and phoneme awareness all made an independent contribution to children’s spelling of morphological words. It is important to note that print exposure, however, did not explain unique variance in children’s spelling of morphological words. This finding warrants further investigation because it is inconsistent with the explanation, described in the previous section, that suggests that the morphological-word advantage over deep words is due to differences in reading exposure. Presumably, if reading exposure were responsible for the morphological advantage, then one would expect that reading exposure would also explain unique variance in children’s spelling of morphological words. The fact that it does not seems to highlight the role of linguistic factors such as morphological awareness and vocabulary as opposed to reading experience.
The role of children’s awareness of morphology appears to be specific to spelling morphological words because it did not make an independent contribution to children’s spelling of regular and deep words after controlling for grade level, print exposure, vocabulary, and phoneme awareness. This pattern is consistent with the notion that morphological knowledge plays a specific role in spelling words, one that is limited to morphological information. This finding constrains those of Nurses et al. (1997) who had tested the role of morphological awareness on children’s spelling of morphological information only (i.e., spelling of the past tense). The finding also constrains the findings of more general tests of the link between morphological knowledge and general spelling skills Derwing et al., 1995; Fowler & Liberman, 1995).
Examination of the standardized beta weights in Table 4 revealed that print exposure, vocabulary, and phoneme awareness all made an independent contribution to children’s spelling of regular and deep words. The findings that reading experience, vocabulary, and phoneme awareness are significant predictors of spelling in French extends the findings obtained with English-speaking children (e.g., Cunningham & Stanovich, 1991; Treiman, 1985).
In the present study, young primary school children could represent morphological information in their spelling. Furthermore, children’s morphological knowledge was a significant predictor of their ability to spell morphological words. These findings support the view that spelling acquisition is a strategic process influenced by linguistic knowledge rather than a simple process of rote memorization (Ehri, 1986; Read, 1986; Treiman & Cassar, 1996).
This research was supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Tina Leclaire and Jolene Savoie provided much appreciated assistance in conducting the study. Sections of the article were presented as part of the symposium titled Recherches sur les modeles developpementaux et matures de la lecture et de 1’ecriture en frangais,” held during the annual meeting of the Association canadienne francaise pour l’avancement de sciences, Ottawa, May 1999.
Le premier but de la presente etude etait d’examiner si les eleven du primaire representent la morphologie du francais lorsqu’ils epellent den mots contenant une lettre muette en position finale (par ex., chat). Des eleven de 2` et de 4` annee ont epele den mots reguliers, morphologiques, et opaques. Len mots reguliers ne contenaient pas de lettres muettes et pouvaient etre epeles en se fiant sur les correspondances phonemes-graphemes (par ex., tiroir). Len mots morphologiques comprenaient den mots pour lesquels il etait possible de deduire la lettre muette en utilisant den mots derives (par ex., gratuity, tandis que les mots opaques comprenaient den mots pour lesquels la lettre muette devait etre memorisee (par ex., brebis). Tel que prevu, les mots reguliers etaient les plus faciles a epeler, tandis que les mots morphologiques etaient plus faciles que les mots opaques.
Le deuxieme but de l’etude etait d’examiner le lien entre les connaissances morphologiques den eleven et leur performance en epellation. Len connaissances morphologiques etaient evaluees avec une tache de deduction (par ex., danse: danser; saut: ). Len analyses de regressions hierarchiques revelerent que les connaissances morphologiques contribuaient de facon statistiquement significative a 1’epellation den mots morphologiques. Ce lien etait maintenu apres avoir controle pour le niveau scolaire den eleven, les experiences de lecture, le vocabulaire, les habiletes generales d’epellation (epellation de mots reguliers), et l’analyse phonemique. Cependant, les connaissances morphologiques n’etaient pas reliees 31’epellation den mots reguliers et opaques.
Len resultats de la presente etude sont en accord avec l’idee qu’epeler est un processus strategique influence par les connaissances langagieres plutot qu’un simple processus de memorisation.
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MONIQUE SENECHAL, Carleton University
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Monique Senechal, Department of Psychology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario Kls 5B6 (E-mail: email@example.com).
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