The purpose of this research was to understand better how morphemic units are encoded and auto-organised in memory and how they are accessed during writing. We hypothesised that the activation of morphemic units would not depend on rule-based learning during primary school but would be determined by frequency-based learning, which is a process that automatically encodes whole orthographic forms encountered during reading. To evaluate gradual changes in the impacts of each process, the ability to inflect a verb was investigated in a spelling-to-dictation task utilising simple sentences that included past participle inflections in three participant populations: 2nd to 5th primary-school graders, 6th and 8th secondary-school students with varying print linguistic abilities and young adults. Two frequency indicators were manipulated: past participle inflection frequency (the frequency of a particular suffix irrespective of the word root) was used to index the use of a rule-based procedure, and orthographic-form frequency was used to index the use of a frequency-based procedure. The results revealed the following: (a) the younger spellers mainly used a frequency-based procedure that produced many spelling errors that were mostly due to the selection of the most frequent orthographic forms in their orthographic lexicon; (b) the rule-based procedure is notably late and led to fewer errors only at the 5th grade in primary school; and (c) the frequency-based procedure is still operating in the less skilled spellers of grades six and eight. The results are discussed in light of statistical learning, which seems to jeopardise the use of an efficient grammatical processing by younger children and less skilled spellers.
Reading and Writing – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 5, 2013
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