Separability of lexical and morphological knowledge: Evidence from language minority children

Daphna Shahar-Yames, Zohar Eviatar, Anat Prior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lexical and morphological knowledge of school-aged children are correlated with each other, and are often difficult to distinguish. One reason for this might be that many tasks currently used to assess morphological knowledge require children to inflect or derive real words in the language, thus recruiting their vocabulary knowledge. The current study investigated the possible separability of lexical and morphological knowledge using two complementary approaches. First, we examined the correlations between vocabulary and four morphological tasks tapping different aspects of morphological processing and awareness, and using either real-word or pseudo-word stimuli. Thus, we tested the hypothesis that different morphological tasks recruit lexical knowledge to various degrees. Second, we compared the Hebrew vocabulary and morphological knowledge of 5th grade language minority speaking children to that of their native speaking peers. This comparison allows us to ask whether reduced exposure to the societal language might differentially influence vocabulary and morphological knowledge. The results demonstrate that indeed different morphological tasks rely on lexical knowledge to varying degrees. In addition, language minority students had significantly lower performance in vocabulary and in morphological tasks that recruited vocabulary knowledge to a greater extent. In contrast, both groups performed similarly in abstract morphological tasks with a lower vocabulary load. These results demonstrate that lexical and morphological knowledge may rely on partially separable learning mechanisms, and highlight the importance of distinguishing between these two linguistic components.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 21 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Shahar-Yames, Eviatar and Prior.


  • Bilingual
  • Language-minority
  • Lexical knowledge
  • Morphology
  • Token
  • Type
  • Vocabulary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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