Inflectional spelling deficits in developmental dyslexia

Joanne Egan*, M. J. Tainturier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


The goal of this study was to examine past-tense spelling deficits in developmental dyslexia and their relationship to phonological abilities, spoken morphological awareness and word specific orthographic memory. Three groups of children (28 9-year-old dyslexic, 28 chronological age-matched and 28 reading/spelling age-matched children) completed a battery of tests including spelling regularly inflected words (e.g., kissed) and matched one-morpheme words (e.g., wrist). They were also assessed on a range of tests of reading and spelling abilities and associated linguistic measures. Dyslexic children were impaired in relation to chronological age-matched controls on all measures. Furthermore, they were significantly poorer than younger reading and spelling age-matched controls at spelling inflected verbs, supporting the existence of a specific deficit in past-tense spelling in dyslexia. In addition to under-using the - ed spelling on inflected verbs, the dyslexic children were less likely to erroneously apply this spelling to one-morpheme words than younger controls. Dyslexics were also poorer than younger controls at using a consistent spelling for stems presented in isolation versus as part of an inflected word, indicating that they make less use of the morphological relations between words to support their spelling. In line with this interpretation, regression analyses revealed another qualitative difference between the spelling and reading age-matched group and the dyslexic group: while both spoken morphological awareness and orthographic word specific memory were significant predictors of the accuracy of past-tense spelling in the former group, only orthographic memory (irregular word reading and spelling) was a significant factor in the dyslexic group. Finally, we identified a subgroup of seven dyslexic children who were severely deficient in past-tense spelling. This subgroup was also significantly worse than other dyslexics and than younger controls on scores of orthographic memory. The implications of our findings for teaching and remediation strategies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1179-1196
Number of pages18
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyslexia
  • Inflection
  • Morphology
  • Orthography
  • Past-tense
  • Phonology
  • Spelling
  • Verbs

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