Language and Reading: The Role of Morpheme and Phoneme Awareness

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Purpose of Review: Although spoken language in the form of meta-linguistic awareness is widely regarded as being involved in reading development, the extensive literature based on different experimental tasks, age groups and languages, makes it difficult to establish consensus about the type of awareness that is critical and the mechanisms underlying this relationship. The purpose of this review is to explore the links between reading and two specific aspects of meta-linguistic awareness, namely, phoneme awareness and morpheme awareness.

Recent Findings: Research has uncovered distinct levels of meta-linguistic awareness that stand in different relationships to learning to read. Empirical findings support the reciprocal involvement of an awareness of phonemes and morphemes in reading development but the precise nature of the relationship between spoken and written language is subject to cross-language variation.

Summary: A universal model of reading development is needed that is sufficiently flexible to allow interplay in the processing of phonology, orthography and meaning in response to the linguistic characteristics of the spoken and written forms of the language being acquired. The linguistic characteristics that influence the development of phoneme and morpheme awareness are compared for alphabetic and morphographic orthographies and related to typical and atypical patterns of reading acquisition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-234
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Developmental Disorders Reports
Issue number4
Early online date31 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • reading development
  • phoneme awareness
  • morpheme awareness
  • developmental dyslexia
  • meta-linguistic awareness
  • cross-linguistic


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