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Syllables and morphemes in German reading development: Evidence from second graders, fourth graders, and adults


Children have been found to use units such as syllables and morphemes in fine-grained reading processes, before they transition to a coarse-grained, holistic route. Which units they prefer at different stages in reading development is unresolved. The present study compares the use of syllables and morphemes. Second graders, fourth graders, and adults performed a lexical decision task on multimorphemic and monomorphemic words and pseudowords that were visually disrupted either syllable-congruent or syllable-incongruent (i.e., morpheme-congruent in multimorphemic items). Syllables turned out to be the preferred unit of fine-grained processing for second graders, while fourth graders also used morphemes when morphemes were emphasized by the presentation format. Moreover, the study supports the assumption that children rely more on fine-grained processing, while adults have more coarse-grained processing.

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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Jana Hasenäcker, MPRG Reading Education and Development (REaD), Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, Berlin 14195, Germany. E-mail:
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Applied Psycholinguistics
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