Direct and Indirect Roles of Morphological Awareness in the English Reading Comprehension of Native English, Spanish, Filipino, and Vietnamese Speakers


  • This research was supported by grant R305A080631 awarded to Nonie K. Lesaux from the Institute of Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not reflect those of the granting agency. We would like to thank Daniel Berry for his methodological support. This research was completed while the first author was at Teachers College, Columbia University, but he has since moved to New York University.

Michael J. Kieffer, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, 239 Greene Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10003. Internet:


This study tested three hypotheses about the direct and indirect contributions of derivational morphological awareness to English reading comprehension in sixth-grade students from differing language backgrounds (n= 952). Students included Spanish-speaking, Filipino-speaking, and Vietnamese-speaking language minority learners as well as native English speakers. Multiple-group structural equation modeling indicated that morphological awareness made a significant direct contribution to reading comprehension, controlling for reading vocabulary and word reading fluency. Morphological awareness also made a significant indirect contribution to reading comprehension via reading vocabulary, but not via word reading fluency. Effects were similar across the four language groups. Findings suggest that morphological awareness may play multiple important roles in English reading comprehension for students from a variety of home language backgrounds.