Simple morphological spelling rules are not always used: Individual differences in children and adults

  • Applied Psycholinguistics, March 2017, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/s0142716417000042

Children and adults don't always use simple spelling rules

What is it about?

"Everyone" knows that in English, plurals and some verbs are spelled with an -s on the end (three cats, she walks). However, this shows that when they're asked to choose the spelling of made-up words that should follow these same rules, many children and even many adults don't choose the right spelling. It seems that people might spell many words just from a memorised store, rather than being aware of helpful rules that would make it easier to spell new words.

Why is it important?

When we're spelling words that we already know, it's easy to get them right by using their memorised spelling. But when we have to write a new word, it's useful if we have a reliable rule to help get it right. If children are taught more explicitly about simple grammatical rules (such as that plurals and third-person singular verbs need to be spelled with a final -s, even when they might sound like a "z" as in "legs"), it would help them spell new words correctly more often.

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The following have contributed to this page: Nenagh Kemp