Morphology is the study of the structure of words, specifically looking at roots, affixes, and parts of speech. A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning within a word. Morphological knowledge, which is the target of our assessment, the ability to identify, manipulate, and use units of meaning in word recognition, spelling, accessing, and communicating word meaning in reading and writing.Why study morphology?
Morphological knowledge is closely related to vocabulary knowledge. Students’ knowledge of vocabulary is high correlated with their reading ability. Thus, studying morphology can give insight into how students build their vocabulary and, ultimately, improve their reading.
The circle diagram at the left explains how morphology fits into a system of reading. Morphemes are usually groups of letters that often incorporate multiple sounds. Take the word injustice. It has three morphemes: the prefix in, the base word just, and the suffix ice. Taken together, they form the whole word, which fits into the syntax of a sentence and the semantics and pragmatics of understanding.
One of the most important reasons for studying morphology is that it is the lowest level that carries meaning. That is, for educators and researchers interested in more than just decoding and pronunciation, morphology can be a key link to understanding how students make meaning from the words they read.