Morphological priming in children: Disentangling the effects of school-grade and reading skill

Scientific Studies of Reading, 24(6), 484–499.


Masked priming studies have shown that readers decompose morphologically complex words (read+er). Interindividual differences have been suggested to affect this phenomenon. However, its development is poorly understood. We addressed this issue by taking a longitudinal approach that allows greater rigor in establishing the relationship between grade, reading skill, and morphological priming. A masked priming lexical decision task with suffixed words (kleidchen-KLEID), suffixed nonwords (kleidtum-KLEID), non-suffixed nonwords (kleidekt-KLEID) and unrelated primes (träumerei-KLEID) was administered to 98 children in grade 2, and again in grade 3 and 4 of elementary school. Reading skill was measured at each testing point. Grade and reading skill were associated with distinct patterns of priming: all priming effects increased with reading skill, whereas priming from non-suffixed nonwords decreased with grade. This suggests that the ability to identify stems can be associated with reading skills, while sensitivity to affixes is acquired over grades.

Scientific Studies of Reading, 24(6), 484–499