Morphological awareness skills and spelling in children with developmental language disorder: The case of derivational silent letters in French

Morphological awareness skills and spelling in children with developmental language disorder: The case of derivational silent letters in French

First Author: Marie-Pier Godin -- Universite de Montreal
Additional authors/chairs: 
Andréanne Gagné; Nathalie Chapleau
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: In French, silent letters are inconsistent and usually occur at word endings. Studies indicate that good morphological awareness skills help choosing appropriate silent letters when producing a derivation (e.g.: lait–laitier). Only a handful of studies targets morphological awareness skills in children with developmental language disorder (DLD); even less analyze their ability to spell derivational silent letters. Considering their propensity to omit spelling grammatical morphology marks (Mackie et al., 2013), we hypothesized that DLD children will have more difficulty with derivational silent letters.

Method: 16 DLD children (7 to 9 year-old) were compared to 16 TD (7 to 8 year-old), matched on spelling skills (Ortho3). Each child was tested on morphological awareness skills and on a dictation assessing derivational silent letter productions.

Results: On the morphological awareness skill tasks, the DLD group produced significantly more errors than the TD group. These errors show a bigger focus on semantic aspects rather than on derivational rules (e.g.: The one who illustrates is an… “artist”, instead of “illustrator”.). On the dictation, both groups produced a similarly high number of errors. However, TD children tried more frequently to add silent letters at the end of words.

Conclusion: The DLD and TD groups do not appear to rely on their morphological knowledge to spell derivational letters. However, TD children seem more aware of this graphotactic regularity. Teachers should guide TD students to rely on their morphological knowledge when choosing silent letters. In contrast, specific morphological interventions would be more relevant for DLD students.