Morphological awareness skills of fourth-grade African American students


Purpose: We examined the morphological awareness skills of fourth-grade African American children and the association between degree of African American English (AAE) use and performance on written measures of morphological awareness. Additional purposes were to determine whether performance on the morphological awareness tasks (a) was affected by the transparency of morphologically related words and the type of task administered, (b) was associated with other literacy and literacy-related skills, and (c) explained unique variance on these latter abilities. Method: Thirty fourth-grade African American children from low-income backgrounds were administered 2 morphological awareness tasks and completed norm-referenced measures of word-level reading, reading comprehension, spelling, phonemic awareness, and receptive vocabulary. Results: The degree of AAE use was not associated with students' performance on the morphological awareness tasks. On these tasks, significantly higher scores were obtained on items that represented a transparent relationship between a base word and its derived form. The students' performance on the morphological awareness tasks was significantly and moderately related to their performance on the word-level reading, spelling, and receptive vocabulary measures. Morphological awareness scores explained significant unique variance on measures of word-level reading and spelling, above that predicted by performance on measures of phonemic awareness and vocabulary. Conclusion: As shown in previous investigations of Caucasian children's morphological awareness skills, fourth-grade African American students' morphological awareness abilities are associated with select language and literacy skills. Professionals should capitalize on students' intact capabilities in morphological awareness during literacy instruction in an effort to maximize language and literacy performance for African American students. © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Document Type





African American English, Morphological awareness, Phonemic awareness, Reading, Spelling, Vocabulary

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Journal Title

Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools