Orthographic consistency influences morphological processing in reading aloud

evidence from a cross-linguistic study

Petroula Mousikou*, Elisabeth Beyersmann, Maria Ktori, Ludivine Javourey-Drevet, Davide Crepaldi, Johannes C. Ziegler, Jonathan Grainger, Sascha Schroeder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


The present study investigated whether morphological processing in reading is influenced by the orthographic consistency of a language or its morphological complexity. Developing readers in Grade 3 and skilled adult readers participated in a reading aloud task in four alphabetic orthographies (English, French, German, Italian), which differ in terms of both orthographic consistency and morphological complexity. English is the least consistent, in terms of its spelling-to-sound relationships, as well as the most morphologically sparse, compared to the other three. Two opposing hypotheses were formulated. If orthographic consistency modulated the use of morphology in reading, readers of English should show more robust morphological processing than readers of the other three languages, because morphological units increase the reliability of spelling-to-sound mappings in the English language. In contrast, if the use of morphology in reading depended on the morphological complexity of a language, readers of French, German, and Italian should process morphological units in printed letter strings more efficiently than readers of English. Both developing and skilled readers of English showed greater morphological processing than readers of the other three languages. These results support the idea that the orthographic consistency of a language, rather than its morphological complexity, influences the extent to which morphology is used during reading. We explain our findings within the remit of extant theories of reading acquisition and outline their theoretical and educational implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12952
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number6
Early online date15 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • cross-linguistic
  • morphology
  • orthographic consistency
  • reading acquisition

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