Purpose: This study investigated the contribution of awareness of derivational morphology (e.g., knowledge of affixes and structure of derived words) to decoding of derived words in Malay, an alphabetic language with a shallow orthography.
Method: 157 Grade 3 Malay-speaking children in Singapore participated in the study. They were assessed on their phonological awareness (phoneme deletion), morphological awareness (morphological relatedness and affix choice), receptive vocabulary knowledge (picture selection), non-verbal intelligence, as well as timed and untimed reading-aloud of derived words.
Results: Hierarchical regression analyses revealed no significant contribution of age, non-verbal intelligence, as well as oral vocabulary knowledge to Malay word reading abilities. After controlling for the effects of these three variables, phonological awareness and morphological awareness both significantly predicted derived word reading and reading fluency (i.e., timed decoding). In addition, morphological awareness consistently showed a stronger impact on decoding of Malay complex words than phonological awareness for both word reading tasks.
Conclusion: Instead of relying on pure phonological strategies, children applied their morphological skills in reading morphologically complex words, which suggests a deserved focus on morphological skill training in Malay literacy acquisition.