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

Kemp, N ORCID: 0000-0002-8214-5427, Mitchell, P and Bryant, P 2017 , 'Simple morphological spelling rules are not always used: Individual differences in children and adults' , Applied Psycholinguistics, vol. 38, no. 5 , pp. 1071-1094 , doi: 10.1017/S0142716417000042.

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Abstract

The English spelling system has a variety of rules and exceptions, but both theoretical and empiricalaccounts have generally concluded that by about age 9 or 10, children master the morphological rulethat regular plural nouns (e.g., socks) and third-person singular present verbs (e.g., lacks) are spelledwith the inflectional ending –s. In three experiments, however, we found that when forced to relyexclusively on morphological cues, only a minority of primary school children, secondary schoolchildren, and even adults performed significantly above chance at choosing the appropriate spelling fornovel words presented as inflected or uninflected nouns and verbs. Further, significantly above-chanceperformance was more common in adults who had attended school until age 18, compared to age16. We conclude that many spellers, especially those who do not go on to tertiary education, neverlearn some simple morphological spelling rules, and instead rely on a store of individual word-specificspellings.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Kemp, N and Mitchell, P and Bryant, P
Keywords: spelling, morphology, children, adults, plurals
Journal or Publication Title: Applied Psycholinguistics
Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
ISSN: 0142-7164
DOI / ID Number: 10.1017/S0142716417000042
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2017 Cambridge University Press

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