The Acquisition of Written Morphology in Greek

Authored by: Terezinha Nunes , Athanasios Aidinis , Peter Bryant

Handbook of Orthography and Literacy

Print publication date:  September  2005
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780805846522
eBook ISBN: 9780203824719
Adobe ISBN: 9781136781353


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We tested the hypothesis that children do not learn how to spell simply by memorizing words by rote but they also use morphological knowledge to generate the appropriate spellings of words. We put this hypothesis to the test by administering real words and pseudowords to Greek children from grades 2 through 5. The Greek language lends itself nicely to testing this hypothesis. The reason is that many words in the Greek writing system end with similar sounds but are spelled differently, depending on their morphological nature. For example, take the phoneme /o/. This sound is spelled as "o" at the end of singular neuter nouns but as "ω" at the end of first-person-singular verbs. Thus here, and in many other cases in Greek, there is a good rule for deciding which of the two (or more) alternative spellings for the same sound is appropriate. The rule is based almost entirely on morphology. Morphological knowledge therefore can be expected to facilitate the acquisition of correct spelling. If rote memory played a role in spelling, Greek children should do well in spelling real Greek words but poorly in spelling pseudowords, which cannot be spelled from memory. The children's performance showed a high degree of correlation between real word-spelling scores and pseudoword-spelling scores. It appears that Greek children use morphological knowledge for spelling and therefore can spell even pseudowords reasonably well. The study also presents some evidence that there is a connection between morphological awareness and the acquisition of morphological skills. This study used word-ending spelling as a measure of written morphological skills because many Greek words have the same word-ending sound but are spelled differently depending on their morphological status. Methods for assessing morphological awareness in Greek were developed and the correlation between children's performance on these tasks and their progress in using morphology was analyzed. A strong relationship between morphological awareness and written morphological skills was found.

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