Morphology, also known as oral grammar, refers to the use of words and their parts or ‘morphemes’ (the smallest meaningful units of language). Grammatical morphemes apply meaning (and sometimes tense) to nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
Some examples of morphology
Letters added to the front of words to change the meaning. For example:
- Ungrateful (the use of morpheme ‘un’ means ‘not’)
- Predetermine (the use of morpheme ‘pre’ means ‘before’)
Letters added to the end of words to change the meaning. For example:
- Gladly (the use of morpheme ‘ly’ changes glad into an adverb)
- Cats (the use of the morpheme ‘s’ changes the word ‘cat’ into a plural)
Using morphemes to change the tense of words. For example:
- Skipping (the use of morpheme ‘ing’ creates a present tense word)
- Walked (the use of morpheme ‘ed’ creates a past tense word)
Why is morphology important?
Strong morphology skills are important for later literacy development, especially reading and spelling. A child with Morphology difficulties may have trouble using morphemes orally or in their written work (e.g. may say/write ‘horse’ for ‘horses’), which may make it difficult for others to understand them.
How can you help your child develop their morphology skills?
There are many things you can do to help your child increase their expressive language skills, including:
- Repeating a word/sentence with the correct morphology multiple times with emphasis (e.g. ‘I can see two cats’, ‘there’s one cat and there’s another’; ‘there are two cats’; ‘let’s count them…1 cat…2 cats’; ‘how many cats can you see?’; ‘what colour are the cats?’, etc).
- Modelling the correct grammar using your child’s own words (e.g. ‘he walked to the shops’; ‘she is running’).
- Occasionally have your child repeat a word or sentence with the correct grammar. It is important not to do this all the time or your child may resist talking.
Activities that can help build morphology skills
There are a number of activities that you can do to increase a child’s morphology skills. They’re probably things you’re already doing but they can be expanded without much effort.
Talk about what is happening in the story or the pictures of the book (e.g. ‘Look! The chicken in running away from the wolf and the cow is chasing the wolf’). This is a great activity for focusing on verb tenses, plurals, etc.
Describe what you see and focus on the morphemes in the sentences you produce (e.g. ‘I see a woman dancing’) encourage your child to use the correct the correct morphology during their turn by modelling the correct response or repeating back their sentence with correct morphology (e.g. ‘yes, there are three goats’).
Sing a song
It could be a nursery rhyme or a popular song your child likes, placing emphasis on the morphemes in the song. Repeated exposure of correct morphology will make it easier for your child to understand when to use of the morpheme in their own language.
Play a memory game
This can be done with simple pictures or a memory game you may already have at home. Memory games can be great for eliciting the correct morphology of words, for example, you could play memory and focus on using plurals ‘s’ when the child gets a pair of identical animal cards (‘you got a pair! You have two cows! Let’s see if you can find another pair’).
Learning Links is here to help
If your child has trouble with morphology, oral grammar or other language difficulties you can always contact Learning Links for help. We have a range of specialised tutoring, speech pathology services and social skills programs. Get in touch or give us a call on 1300 003 900.
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