Developmental Science

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Volume 8 Issue 6 (November 2005), Pages F31-F36, 459-620

What young children do and do not know about the spelling of inflections and derivations (pages 583-594)


Morphemes have a powerful impact on the spellings of words in English. We report on two experiments examining young children's knowledge of the effect of suffix morphemes on spelling. In Experiment 1, 5‐ to 8‐year‐olds demonstrated awareness of the role of inflections, but not derivations in spelling. Experiment 2 examined whether children might show an understanding of the impact of derivations on spelling when they are provided with the specific spelling pattern. There was support for this idea; 7‐ to 10‐year‐old children took advantage of the derivations that were given to spell other derivations, but not the endings of control words. The results of these experiments suggest that young children are aware of the role that suffixes play in determining spelling, but that there are limits, such as those imposed by spelling difficulty, that constrain the execution of this knowledge. These findings provide new insights into current theoretical debates on spelling development.

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