Sunday, December 13, 2009

Morphological Awareness: Recognition of parts of Words

In our last blog we discussed Orthographics. Continuing on our voyage of discovery in the land of sounds, letters and words, we would like to introduce you to the term Morphology as it is used in language and learning.

Morphology is the identification, analysis and description of the structure of words. While words are generally accepted as being the smallest units of syntax in a language, it is clear that in most languages, words can be related to other words by rules.

Words contain other smaller words that lend them greater meaning, a 'root' that connects them together in a structure or wordy relationship. One that you can easily build on. In this way, morphology is the study of patterns of word formation within and across languages

Learning the basic Rules
As an example, children recognise that the words - dog, dogs and dog catcher - are closely related and refer to things that involve the animal 'dog'. At an early age children learn to recognise these constructs and relationships, and build up a knowledge of the rules of word formation.

The parent and teacher can help them to learn that 'dog' is to 'dog catcher' as 'dish' is to 'dishwasher'. On a more complex level, the rules understood by the child, reflect specific patterns in the way words are formed from smaller units and how those smaller units interact in writing. Provide them with plenty of opportunites to re-enforce this knowledge.

More Complex Words
Unfortunately not all words have a straghtforward relationship between speaking and spelling. For example; who, niece, although, etc. These are words that do not sound the same as they are spelled. There are additional rules and relationships to be learned and that's OK, as long as you are aware of that and make it known to the children.

Prefixes and Suffixes
many words that we use have standard beginnings (prefix) and some have standard endings (suffix), to convey meaning and to show a 'change' to the 'root' meaning.

Prefixes e.g. un, dis, over, etc. are all part of a consistent and regular rule that governs them and their effect on the 'root' of the word. Spend time with your child exploring the different un-, dis- and over-, words.

Show how they change the meaning of the 'root' word e.g. unable means to be not able, disentangle means to undo an entanglement, overtime means to work beyond your official hours of work.

Even in trying to translate and expand the meaning of the chosen words you will find that you have to use a lot more words to ensure that the listener understands your explanation. Thus, proving the value of using prefixes and other shortened terms to convey meaning and understanding quickly and clearly.

Morphological Awareness
What we have been discussing here is already raising your morphological awareness. You are recognising how the use of prefixes and suffixes affects the 'root' word and how they convey different meanings or can create some subtle variations of the same meaning, i.e. variations based on an established rule.

Your part in this is to work with the children and to raise their Morphological Awareness, not in an advanced linguistic and complex way but in a pleasant and fun way. Show them how big words are constructed from smaller words and explain to them the rules that govern prefixes and suffixes.

Word Games
A great way of doing this is by cutting out words from a magazine or with word cards. An ideal game for this is Scrabble but I realise that this is not as popular as it used to be, which is a shame. However you decide to do this, it is all about spending quality time with your children and at the same time making it easy for them to learn something new.

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