The effect of morphology on spelling and reading accuracy: A study on Italian children

Paola Angelelli, Chiara Valeria Marinelli, Cristina Burani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In opaque orthographies knowledge of morphological information helps in achieving reading and spelling accuracy. In transparent orthographies with regular print-to-sound correspondences, such as Italian, the mappings of orthography onto phonology and phonology onto orthography are in principle sufficient to read and spell most words. The present study aimed to investigate the role of morphology in the reading and spelling accuracy of Italian children as a function of school experience to determine whether morphological facilitation was present in children learning a transparent orthography. The reading and spelling performances of 15 third-grade and 15 fifth-grade typically developing children were analyzed. Children read aloud and spelled both low-frequency words and pseudowords. Low-frequency words were manipulated for the presence of morphological structure (morphemic words vs. non-derived words). Morphemic words could also vary for the frequency (high vs. low) of roots and suffixes. Pseudo-words were made up of either a real root and a real derivational suffix in a combination that does not exist in the Italian language or had no morphological constituents. Results showed that, in Italian, morphological information is a useful resource for both reading and spelling. Typically developing children benefitted from the presence of morphological structure when they read and spelled pseudowords; however, in processing low-frequency words, morphology facilitated reading but not spelling. These findings are discussed in terms of morpho-lexical access and successful cooperation between lexical and sublexical processes in reading and spelling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1373
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberNOV
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Morphology
  • Orthography
  • Spelling
  • Transparent orthographies
  • Typically developing readers/spellers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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