Morphological awareness facilitates many reading processes. For this reason, L1 and L2 learners of English are often directly taught to use their knowledge of English morphology as a useful reading strategy for determining parts of speech and meaning of novel words. Over time, use of morphological awareness skills while reading develops into an automatic process for L1 readers called morphological decomposition. While the practice of explicitly teaching morphological awareness skills is prevalent in ESL classes, more research is needed to establish what is known about gains in L2 morphological awareness, and its relationship to the development of automatic morphological decomposition processes in English language learners. The present study seeks to shed light on the nature of this relationship across growth in L2 proficiency. Two experimental measures were used: a masked priming paradigm with a lexical decision task to explore priming evidence for morphological decomposition and a paper and pencil test of morphological awareness which required subjects to derive the base of a morphologically complex word. These tasks were administered to L1 (N = 43) and L2 groups (intermediate N = 16, advanced N = 16) of university-aged subjects. Results indicated that all subjects show repetition priming effects. However, despite a significant gain in explicit knowledge of English morphology across proficiency levels, L2 learners don’t develop an ability to morphologically decompose words in the unconscious, automatic way that native English speakers do, as evidenced by a lack of morphological priming. Implications for L2 pedagogy and L2 word storage in the mental lexicon are discussed.
Reading and Writing – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 14, 2015
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