Skip to main content Accessibility help

Development of early morphological awareness in Greek: Epilinguistic versus metalinguistic and inflectional versus derivational awareness



This cross-sectional study examined the development of morphological awareness in Greek children 4–7 years old. A distinction was adopted between epilinguistic control, evidenced in judgment tasks and indicative of elementary levels of awareness, and metalinguistic awareness, evidenced in production tasks and indicative of full-blown conscious awareness. The morphological domains of inflectional and derivational morphology were specifically contrasted to determine whether they follow distinct developmental trajectories. Trial-level performance data from 236 children in four morphological awareness tasks as a function of age were modeled using generalized additive models. Significant performance increase with age was found for all four awareness tasks. The results further indicated that production of derivational morphemes was consistently more difficult than production of inflectional morphemes and judgment of derivational morphemes, whereas the differences between the two inflectional and between the two judgment tasks were not significant. This suggests that at these ages, epilinguistic control is similarly effective for the two morphological domains whereas full metalinguistic awareness of derivational morphology trails behind that of inflectional morphology, at least as measured by these specific tasks. The findings highlight the need for early tracking and finer distinctions within the domain of morphological awareness, to identify and potentially enhance the critical skills related to the development of vocabulary and reading comprehension.


Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Vassiliki Diamanti, Special Needs Education, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1140, Blindern, 0318 Oslo, Norway; E-mail:


Hide All
Anglin, J. M. (1993). Vocabulary development: A morphological analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Anisfeld, M., & Tucker, G. R. (1967). English pluralization rules of six-year-old children. Child Development, 38, 12011217.
Baayen, R. H. (2013). Multivariate statistics. In Podesva, R. & Sharma, D. (Eds.), Research methods in linguistics (pp. 337372). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Berko, J. (1958). The child's learning of English morphology. Word, 14, 150177.
Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Nagy, W., & Carlisle, J. (2010). Growth in phonological, orthographic, and morphological awareness in Grades 1 to 6. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 39, 141163.
Bialystok, E., & Ryan, E. B. (1985). Toward a definition of metalinguistic skill. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 31, 229251.
Bowers, P. N., Kirby, J. R., & Deacon, S. H. (2010). The effects of morphological instruction on literacy skills: A systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 80, 144179.
Calfee, R. C., Lindamood, P., & Lindamood, C. (1973). Acoustic-phonetic skills and reading—Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 64, 293298.
Carlisle, J. F. (1995). Morphological awareness and early reading achievement. In Feldman, L. B. (Ed.), Morphological aspects of language processing (pp. 189209). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Carlisle, J. F. (2000). Awareness of the structure and meaning of morphologically complex words: Impact on reading. Reading and Writing, 12, 169190.
Carlisle, J. F. (2003). Morphology matters in learning to read: A commentary. Reading Psychology, 24, 291322.
Carlisle, J. F. (2010). Effects of instruction in morphological awareness on literacy achievement: An integrative review. Reading Research Quarterly, 45, 464487.
Carroll, J. M., Snowling, M. J., Hulme, C., & Stevenson, J. (2003). The development of phonological awareness in preschool children. Developmental Psychology, 39, 913923.
Casalis, S., Deacon, S. H., & Pacton, S. (2011). How specific is the connection between morphological awareness and spelling? A study of French children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 32, 499511.
Casalis, S., & Louis-Alexandre, M.-F. (2000). Morphological analysis, phonological analysis and learning to read French: A longitudinal study. Reading and Writing, 12, 303335.
Cazden, C. B. (1976). Play with language and metalinguistic awareness: One dimension of language experience. In Bruner, J. S., Jolly, A., & Silva, K. (Eds.), Play: Its role in development and evolution. New York: Basic Books.
Clark, E. V. (1978). Awareness of language: Some evidence from what children say and do. In Sinclair, A., Jarvella, R. J., & Levelt, W. J. M. (Eds.), The child's conception of language. Berlin: Springer.
Clark, E. V., & Andersen, E. S. (1979, March). Spontaneous repairs: Awareness in the process of acquiring language. Paper presented at the Symposium on Reflections on Metacognition, Society for Research in Child Development, San Francisco, CA.
Colé, P., Bouton, S., Leuwers, C., Casalis, S., & Sprenger-Charolles, L. (2012). Stem and derivational-suffix processing during reading by French second and third graders. Applied Psycholinguistics, 33, 97120.
Cunningham, A. J., & Carroll, J. M. (2015). Early predictors of phonological and morphological awareness and the link with reading: Evidence from children with different patterns of early deficit. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36, 509531.
Deacon, S. H., & Bryant, P. (2005). What young children do and do not know about the spelling of inflections and derivations. Developmental Science, 8, 583594.
Deacon, S. H., & Bryant, P. (2006a). Getting to the root: Young writers’ sensitivity to the role of root morphemes in the spelling of inflected and derived words. Journal of Child Language, 33, 401417.
Deacon, S. H., & Bryant, P. (2006b). This turnip's not for turning: Children's morphological awareness and their use of root morphemes in spelling. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 24, 567575.
Deacon, S. H., Campbell, E., Tamminga, M., & Kirby, J. (2010). Seeing the harm in harmed and harmful: Morphological processing by children in Grades 4, 6, and 8. Applied Psycholinguistics, 31, 759775.
Deacon, S. H., Kieffer, M. J., & Laroche, A. (2014). The relation between morphological awareness and reading comprehension: Evidence from mediation and longitudinal models. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18, 432451.
Deacon, S. H., & Kirby, J. R. (2004). Morphological awareness: Just “more phonological”? The roles of morphological and phonological awareness in reading development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 223238.
Deacon, S. H., Kirby, J. R, & Casselman-Bell, M. (2009). How robust is the contribution of morphological awareness to general spelling outcomes? Reading Psychology, 30, 301318.
Deacon, S. H., Parrila, R., & Kirby, J. R. (2008). A review of the evidence on morphological processing in dyslexics and poor readers: A strength or weakness? In Reid, G., Fawcett, A. J., Manis, F., & Siegel, L. S. (Eds.), The Sage handbook of dyslexia (pp. 212237). London: Sage.
Derwing, B. L. (1976). Morpheme recognition and the learning of rules of derivational morphology. Revue Canadienne de Linguistique, 21, 3866.
Desrochers, A., Manolitsis, G., Gaudreau, P., & Georgiou, G. (2017). Early contribution of morphological awareness to literacy skills across languages varying in orthographic consistency. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Diakogiorgi, K., Baris, T., & Valmas, T. (2005). Ability to use morphological strategies in spelling by children in the first elementary grade. Journal of the Hellenic Psychological Society, 12, 568586.
Dixon, P. (2008). Models of accuracy in repeated-measures designs. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 447456.
Duncan, L. G., Casalis, S., & Colé, P. (2009). Early metalinguistic awareness of derivational morphology: Observations from a comparison of English and French. Applied Psycholinguistics, 30, 405440.
Duncan, L. G., Seymour, P. H. K., & Hill, S. (1997). How important are rhyme and analogy in beginning reading? Cognition, 63, 171208.
Duncan, L. G., Seymour, P. H. K., & Hill, S. (2000). A small-to-large unit progression in metaphonological awareness and reading? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 53, 10811104.
Fox, B., & Routh, D. K. (1975). Analyzing spoken language into words, syllables and phonemes: A developmental study. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 4, 331342.
Gombert, J. E. (1992). Metalinguistic development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Goodwin, A. P., & Ahn, S. (2010). A meta-analysis of morphological interventions: Effects on literacy achievement of children with literacy difficulties. Annals of Dyslexia, 60, 183208.
Goodwin, A. P., & Ahn, S. (2013). A meta-analysis of morphological interventions in English: Effects on literacy outcomes for school-age children. Scientific Studies of Reading, 17, 257285.
Goswami, U., & East, M. (2000). Rhyme and analogy in beginning reading: Conceptual and methodological issues. Applied Psycholinguistics, 21, 6393.
Holton, D., Mackridge, P., Philippaki-Warburton, I., & Spyropoulos, V. (2012). Greek: A comprehensive grammar (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
Horn, J. (1965). A rationale and test for the number of factors in factor analysis. Psychometrika, 30, 179185.
Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1986). Stage/structure vs. phase/process in modelling linguistic and cognitive development. In Levin, I. (Ed.), Stage and structure: Reopening the debate. Norwood, NJ: Albex.
Kirby, J. R., Deacon, S. H., Bowers, P. N., Izenberg, L., Wade-Woolley, L., & Parrila, R. (2012). Children's morphological awareness and reading ability. Reading and Writing, 25, 389410.
Klairis, C., & Babiniotis, G. (2004). Γραµµατική της νέας ελληνικής: Δοµολειτουργική-επικοινωνιακή [Grammar of modern Greek: Structural/functional-communicative]. Athens: Ellinika Grammata.
Kuo, L. J., & Anderson, R. C. (2006). Morphological awareness and learning to read: A cross-language perspective. Educational Psychologist, 41, 161180.
Lyster, S.-A. H. (2002). The effects of morphological versus phonological awareness training in kindergarten on reading development. Reading and Writing, 15, 261294.
Lyster, S.-A. H., Lervåg, A., & Hulme, C. (2016). Preschool morphological training produces long-term improvements in reading comprehension. Reading and Writing, 29, 12691288.
Mahony, D., Singson, M., & Mann, V. (2000). Reading ability and sensitivity to morphological relations. Reading and Writing, 12, 191218.
Manolitsis, G. (2017). How effective is morphological awareness instruction on early literacy skills? In MacLachlan, C. J. & Arrow, A. W. (Eds.), Literacy in the early years: Reflections on international research and practice (pp. 151174). Singapore: Springer.
Mastropavlou, M. (2006). The role of phonological salience and feature interpretability in the grammar of typically developing and language impaired children (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).
McBride-Chang, C. (2016). Children's literacy development: A cross-cultural perspective on learning to read and write (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.
McBride-Chang, C., Wagner, R., Muse, A., Chow, B. W.-Y., & Shu, H. (2005). The role of morphological awareness in children's vocabulary acquisition in English. Applied Psycholinguistics, 26, 415435.
McNeish, D. (in press). Thanks coefficient alpha, we'll take it from here. Psychological Methods. doi:10.1037/met0000144
Nagy, W. E., Carlisle, J. F., & Goodwin, A. P. (2014). Morphological knowledge and literacy acquisition. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 47, 312.
Nunes, T., Bryant, P. E., & Bindman, M. (1997). Learning to spell 693 regular and irregular verbs. Reading and Writing, 9, 427449.
Protopapas, A. (2017). Learning to read Greek. In Verhoeven, L. T. W. & Perfetti, C. A. (Eds.), Learning to read across languages and writing systems: An international handbook (pp. 155–180). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Protopapas, A., & Vlahou, E. L. (2009). A comparative quantitative analysis of Greek orthographic transparency. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 9911008.
Ralli, A. (2003). Morphology in Greek linguistics: The state of the art. Journal of Greek Linguistics, 4, 77129.
Ralli, A. (2005). Μορφολογία [Morphology]. Athens: Patakis.
R Core Team. (2016). R: A language and environment for statistical computing [Computer software]. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Reed, D. K. (2008). A synthesis of morphology interventions and effects on reading outcomes for students in Grades K-12. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 23, 3649.
Revelle, W. (2016). Psych: Procedures for personality and psychological research. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Revelle, W., & Rocklin, T. (1979). Very simple structure: An alternative procedure for estimating the optimal number of interpretable factors. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 14, 403414.
Rosner, J., & Simon, D. P. (1971). The Auditory Analysis Test: An initial report. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 4, 384392.
Rothou, K. M., & Padeliadu, S. (2015). Inflectional morphological awareness and word reading and reading comprehension in Greek. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36, 10071027.
Sangster, L., & Deacon, S. H. (2011). Development in children's sensitivity to the role of derivations in spelling. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65, 133139.
Selby, S. (1972). The development of morphological rules in children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 42, 293299.
Share, D. L. (2008). On the Anglocentricities of current reading research and practice: The perils of overreliance on an “outlier” orthography. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 584615.
Sparks, E., & Deacon, S. H. (2015). Morphological awareness and vocabulary acquisition: A longitudinal examination of their relationship in English-speaking children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36, 299321.
Stavrakaki, S., & Clahsen, H. (2009). The perfective past tense in Greek child language. Journal of Child Language, 36, 113142.
Tibi, S., & Kirby, J. R. (in press). Morphological awareness: Construct and predictive validity in Arabic. Applied Psycholinguistics, 38, 10191043. doi:10.1017/S0142716417000029
Tong, X., Deacon, S. H., Kirby, J. R., Cain, K., & Parrila, R. (2011). Morphological awareness: A key to understanding poor reading comprehension in English. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 523534.
Tunmer, W. E., Pratt, C., & Herriman, M. (1984). Metalinguistic awareness in children: Theory, research and implications. New York: Springer.
Van Kleeck, A. (1982). The emergence of linguistic awareness: A cognitive framework. Merril-Palmer Quarterly, 28, 237265.
van Rij, J., Wieling, M., Baayen, R., & van Rijn, H. (2016). itsadug: Interpreting time series and autocorrelated data using GAMMs. R Package Version 2.2 [Computer software]. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Varlokosta, S., & Nerantzini, M. (2013). Grammatical gender in specific language impairment: Evidence from determiner-noun contexts in Greek. Journal of the Hellenic Psychological Society, 20, 338357.
Varlokosta, S., & Nerantzini, M. (2015). The acquisition of past tense by Greek-speaking children with specific language impairment: The role of phonological saliency, regularity, and frequency. In Stavrakaki, S. (Ed.), Advances in research on specific language impairment (pp. 253286). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Velicer, W. (1976). Determining the number of components from the matrix of partial correlations. Psychometrika, 41, 321327.
Wood, S. N. (2011) Fast stable restricted maximum likelihood and marginal likelihood estimation of semiparametric generalized linear models. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society B, 73, 336.


Development of early morphological awareness in Greek: Epilinguistic versus metalinguistic and inflectional versus derivational awareness



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed