Multisyllabic Word Reading in Grades 4 and 5: Accuracy, Errors, and Associated Child-Level Skills

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Heggie, Lindsay
Reading , Multisyllabic Words , Morphological Awareness , Prosodic Awareness , Word Reading , Reading Development
The vast majority of English words are multisyllabic (Balota et al., 2007; Baayen, Piepenbrock, & Gulikers, 1995), constituting an increasingly large proportion of the words students encounter in print beginning as early as Grade 3 (Archer, Gleason, & Vachon, 2003; Nagy & Anderson, 1984; Zeno, Ivens, Millard, & Duvvuri, 1995). Students who continue to struggle with word reading through elementary and into secondary school often have a particular difficulty with longer words (Archer, Gleason, & Vachon, 2003; Moats, 1998). This multi-manuscript dissertation reports on two studies of multisyllabic word reading in typically achieving, English-speaking students in grades 4 and 5. The first study examined children’s multisyllabic word reading ability and the relative contributions of five variables of interest: phonological awareness, suprasegmental phonological awareness, morphological awareness, vocabulary, and naming speed. Regression analyses showed that the contribution of phonological awareness (at both the segmental and suprasegmental levels) was fully mediated by that of morphological awareness and that naming speed and morphological awareness predicted children’s multisyllabic word reading accuracy at this stage of reading development. The second study used error analysis to describe the types of errors students made when reading multisyllabic words. Error productions were examined according to reading ability, based on a six-point coding scheme developed to assess decoding and lexical stress errors; good readers made proportionally fewer errors, but were more likely to make errors involving shifts in lexical stress. Error productions were also described in terms of lexicalization (reading the item as a real but erroneous word) and stress regularization (stress shift to the first syllable, in accordance with the majority of English trisyllabic words). Both morphological awareness and vocabulary were positively related to the incidence of lexicalized errors, while both reading ability and suprasegmental phonological awareness were positively related to participants’ tendency to regularize the primary stress of multisyllabic words. Results of both studies are discussed in terms of contributions to theory, instruction, and future research in multisyllabic word reading.
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