Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 16: 263–287, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The effects of morphology and word length on the reading of
Haddad Center for Research in Dyslexia and Reading Disorders, Bar-Ilan University,
Abstract. This article investigated the effects of two speciﬁc Hebrew nominal word structures
and word length, on the latency and accuracy of grade school children’s reading of words.
For this study, three-, four- and ﬁve-letter words of the feminine nominal derivative structure
and the feminine nominal inﬂectional structure, at three different grade levels, were used.
The study also differentiated between an additional vocalized consonant and the addition of
a vowel letter. The participants, 150 native monolingual Hebrew speakers in grades two, four
and six, were asked to read vocalized nouns. The paper reports and analyzes the differences in
the reading of the two morphological structures and word lengths to draw conclusions about
their effects on reading performance. The results indicated that inﬂections took longer to read
and elicited more correct responses than derivations. For derivations with the progression
of grade level, latency becomes shorter and the number of correct responses increases. For
inﬂections with the progression of grade level, latency becomes longer but the number of
correct responses increases. With the addition of a consonant at all grade levels, latency
becomes longer. For accuracy, there were differential results for the different word lengths
in the different grades. With the addition of a vowel letter, accuracy increased in all the grade
levels. Latency, for the two word lengths, showed differential results in the different grades. A
hypothesis on reading development is suggested based on the language-speciﬁc characteristics
of Hebrew morphology and the double vowel system of Hebrew.
Key words: Accuracy, Consonant, Latency, Morphology, Vowel letter, Word length
Morphology plays an essential role in the acquisition of language and
the development of various accompanying language skills. Readers employ
morphological knowledge to analyze words, and provide word meaning
(Nagy & Herman, 1987; Nagy, Anderson, Shimmer, Scott & Stallman,
1989; Taft, 1985). Constructing meaning is based on the readers’ ability to
parse and analyze morphemic components during reading (Carlisle, 2000).
Anglin (1993), for example, found that students’ ability to parse words into
constituent parts enhanced their ability to deduce the meaning of words. The
ability to recognize morphemes as word components aids in constructing
word meaning, especially for unfamiliar morphologically complex words
(Nagy & Anderson, 1984; Tyler & Nagy, 1986).