Site-wide links

Morphographic Approach

Three Stages of Reading Development

Derived in part from the instrumentalist model, Frith (1985) proposed three stages in relation to learning decoding strategies in the reading development of normally hearing children. Each of the three stages included the development of word identification skills that led to enhanced word knowledge, thereby furthering reading development.

The first stage, "logographic," was deeply visually oriented but not very analytical. Words were learned by rote memory and any visually graphic link to a word was exploited so that its recall would be automatically bound up with the graphic (i.e. logographic) representation of the word (for example, the golden arches M for McDonald's). Ehri (1992),working more from the knowledge model, also proposed similar stages that had more meaningful names for teaching professionals. Ehri called this first stage "visual cue reading" in her developmental model.

The second stage in Frith's model was called "alphabetic" and was much more analytical. During this stage, the English alphabet system was identified in a word element by element so that sounding out words became paramount and the rules for representing spoken English were most important. Some visual representation was also present to augment the learning of segmentation skills. Ehri (1992) called this "phonetic cue reading."

The third and final stage in Firth's model was the "orthographic" stage, where readers were skilled enough to analyze words from much larger units. Letter groupings and word structure become critical here for processing word knowledge. Ehri (1992) called this "cipher sight word reading."

Taken together, these three stages could provide a reasonable framework for application to deaf readers if the alphabetic stage was stripped of its phonemic segment, as is normally the case for deaf readers who do not normally benefit from the phonemic presentation of a word.

Morphographic Analysis

Gaustad (2000) argues that deaf readers can "circumvent both the necessity of acquiring mastery of the phonemic system of English and the later difficulties…in learning to apply graphophonemic correspondence to read English" by learning directly a "morphographic" representation of the English word system. For Gaustad, morphographic analysis could be a productive strategy for improving word knowledge in deaf readers in that the phonemes that rely so heavily on spoken representation to be mastered could be readily replaced by learning morphemes, already inherently larger units with a much more regular application that deaf readers already know.

The morpheme rules that deaf readers come to notice in a regular pattern in many different words could be taken advantage of as an opportunity to teach word attack skills that do not depend on sound and hearing to become meaningful. For the purposes of teaching morphemic analysis, deaf readers could easily learn what a "morphograph" is: a group of letters (aside from whole words) that carries unique meaning. That is, a morphograph represents a specific letter-meaning relationship.

Morphographs include common bound inflectional suffixes like -ing and -ly and derivational affixes like pre- and -ment. Included also are word roots and segments of words that always demonstrate the same meaning-print association when they are combined with other morphemes into more complex words. Examples are struct = 'to build' or geo = 'earth' (Gaustad & Paul, 1998).

For example, teaching the words anarchy and monarchy to students could start with a discussion of the similarities in each word. Students will easily point out that both words contain the morpheme or morphograph /arch/, the root meaning of which is from the Greek word archos meaning 'ruler,' 'leader,' 'king,' or 'sovereign.'

Students would then be asked to break apart each word into its constituent parts and then write the meaning for each of the parts, before finally writing the meaning of the word. Look at the following example:

Target words: anarchy, monarchy

anarchy (noun) - Break this word into three morphographic parts:
an- = not or against
-arch = ruler
-y = a noun ending

Meaning: the state of not having a ruling or effective government

monarchy (noun) - Break this word into three morphographic parts:
mono- =mono
-arch = ruler
-y = a noun ending

Meaning: the state of having one ruler, a king or a queen

Having analyzed the words in this way, students would then be able to select the correct word in order to correctly complete a sentence such as the following:

The Queen of England has been the matriarch of the royal family since the middle of the 20th century. The queen's mother was also part of the {anarchy, monarchy} for many years before she died.