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Poster A131

Brain-behavior Support for the Role of Morphology in Child Word Reading

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Ramiro Lucas-Mariano1,2 (, Isabella Guzman1,3, Maria Gonzalez1,4, Rachel Eggleston1, Ioulia Kovelman1; 1University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2University of Southern California, 3University of Houston, 4University of Central Florida

Reading is a crucial skill for all young children to develop. Proficient readers can recognize long and complex words quickly and accurately by segmenting those words into familiar units or syllables. These syllables can be meaningless as in po-ta-to, or be meaningful morphemes such as un+like+ly. This research aims to investigate the role of morphology in child word reading using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging. We asked: do meaningful units of language, or morphemes, support word recognition? Children heard one word, saw a different word, and decided whether the word that they saw was a real word. (N = 12, ages 7-10) In this priming task, the primes and targets were related morphologically (e.g., teacher-teach), phonologically (e.g., spinach-spin), or semantically (e.g., mouse-rat). The behavioral results showed that children were the fastest during the morphology condition, followed by the semantic and then the phonological conditions. This result is consistent with that of adult readers, showing maximal facilitation by morphology in word reading. The neuroimaging results showed that along the language network, the morphology condition elicited less activation than the semantic condition but stronger activation than the phonology condition. These preliminary neuroimaging findings suggest that during the morphology condition, meaning processing is more automated, yet word structure (sound and grammar) processing is more effortful in comparison to the stand-alone meaning and sound conditions. This study speaks to the importance of systematic morphological literacy instruction, which is often overlooked in educational settings.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Development & aging


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April 13–16  |  2024