The effect of spoken vocabulary training on reading complex novel words

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 76(6), 1321–1332.


Do readers benefit from their knowledge of the phonological form and meaning of stems when seeing them embedded in morphologically complex words for the first time in print? This question was addressed using a word learning paradigm. Participants were trained on novel spoken word stems and their meanings (“tump”). Following training, participants then saw the novel stems for the first time in print, either in combination with a real affix (tumpist, tumpor) or with a non-affix (tumpel, tumpain). Untrained items were also included to test whether the affix effect was modulated by the prior training of the spoken word stems. First, the complex words were embedded in meaningful sentences which participants read as their eye movements were recorded (first orthographic exposure). Second, participants were asked to read aloud and spell each individual complex novel word (second orthographic exposure).

Participants spent less time fixating on words that included trained stems compared with untrained stems. However, the training effect did not change depending on whether stems were accompanied by a real affix or a non-affix. In the reading aloud and spelling tasks, there was no effect of training, suggesting that the effect of oral vocabulary training did not extend beyond the initial print exposure. The results indicate that familiarity with spoken stems influences how complex words containing those stems are processed when being read for the first time. Our findings highlight the flexibility and adaptability of the morphological processing system to novel complex words during the first print exposure.

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 76(6), 1321–1332