The orthographic learning of polysyllabic words: Semantics as a source of variability

The orthographic learning of polysyllabic words: Semantics as a source of variability

First Author: Reem Al Ghanem -- University of Connecticut
Additional authors/chairs: 
Devin Kearns
Abstract / Summary: 

PURPOSE: This study was designed to the role of semantics in the orthographic learning of polysyllabic words. Two sources of semantic information were examined in this study: contextual semantic information and semantic information provided by morphemes.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS: (1) Do children have better orthographic learning of polysyllabic words when the words are presented in context and with an emphasis on morphemes, versus in isolation and with an emphasis on syllables? (2) Does morphological knowledge contribute to the orthographic learning of polysyllabic words, in the presence of phonological decoding skill and orthographic knowledge?

METHOD: Fourth and fifth grade children (N = 73) completed an orthographic learning task in which they read 12 disyllabic pseudowords (6 monomorphemic and 6 dimorphemic; e.g., rooprass and zurtful, respectively) in one of two conditions: isolation or context. Children’s orthographic learning was measured using a spelling task and an orthographic choice task. The children also completed a set of phonological decoding skill, orthographic knowledge, and morphological knowledge measures. The composite orthographic learning score as well as the individual scores were analyzed using analysis of variance and multiple linear regression models.

RESULTS: Results indicated that children had better orthographic learning of target pseudowords presented in isolation than those presented in context, irrespective of word type. The results also indicated that children had better orthographic learning of polymorphemic words than for monomorphemic words, irrespective of the condition in which the targets were presented (isolation vs. in-context). The results also showed that morphological knowledge is a robust predictor of the orthographic learning of polysyllabic words. Morphological knowledge contributed to the orthographic learning of polysyllabic words in the presence of phonological decoding skill and orthographic knowledge.