An analysis of the development of morphological knowledge of elementary school students

Alison M Mitchell, University of Rhode Island


Morphological skills have been associated with performance on multiple literacy outcomes. While growth in derived word knowledge has been documented during mid-elementary grades, little research has studied the development of knowledge of specific morphemes, separate from whole-word knowledge. This study examined the development of knowledge of a set of affixes using a real word task and also, independent of word knowledge, using a pseudoword task. Forty-five third-grade and 32 fifth-grade students participated. Students were assessed on word identification, vocabulary knowledge, reading experience, and affix knowledge. Thirty-two affixes (16 prefixes; 16 suffixes) were studied in the affix measures. Real words selected for the study were low-frequency words that included a high-frequency word base and a targeted affix (e.g., warmish). Pseudowords (e.g., moxish) were created by combining an affix with a pseudobase, whose meaning was provided to the students (e.g., mox means smooth). Analyses indicated a wide range of affix knowledge; some morpheme meanings were well known to students (e.g., ish), while others were much less familiar (e.g., ist). Overall, fifth-graders demonstrated greater knowledge of affixes on both morpheme tasks. However, age did not account for unique variance in performance beyond the contribution of vocabulary knowledge and word identification performance. Students' levels of reading experience also demonstrated a significant connection with affix knowledge. The results show that morpheme knowledge develops as grades progress, but that other language and literacy factors significantly influence this development. Notably, the pseudoword task discerned knowledge of morphemes that was independent of word knowledge. Therefore, use of pseudoword tasks offers a useful technique for the study of morpheme knowledge development. ^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Reading|Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Alison M Mitchell, "An analysis of the development of morphological knowledge of elementary school students" (2012). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3503128.