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Simple morphological spelling rules are not always used: Individual differences in children and adults


Kemp, N and Mitchell, P and Bryant, P, Simple morphological spelling rules are not always used: Individual differences in children and adults, Applied Psycholinguistics, 38, (5) pp. 1071-1094. ISSN 0142-7164 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 Cambridge University Press

DOI: doi:10.1017/S0142716417000042


The English spelling system has a variety of rules and exceptions, but both theoretical and empirical accounts have generally concluded that by about age 9 or 10, children master the morphological rule that regular plural nouns (e.g., socks) and third-person singular present verbs (e.g., lacks) are spelled with the inflectional ending s. In three experiments, however, we found that when forced to rely exclusively on morphological cues, only a minority of primary school children, secondary school children, and even adults performed significantly above chance at choosing the appropriate spelling for novel words presented as inflected or uninflected nouns and verbs. Further, significantly above-chance performance was more common in adults who had attended school until age 18, compared to age 16. We conclude that many spellers, especially those who do not go on to tertiary education, never learn some simple morphological spelling rules, and instead rely on a store of individual word-specific spellings.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:spelling, morphology, children, adults, plurals
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Applied and developmental psychology
Research Field:Educational psychology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in psychology
UTAS Author:Kemp, N (Associate Professor Nenagh Kemp)
ID Code:117900
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2017-06-29
Last Modified:2018-07-25

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