Derivational Relations Stages

Derivational Relations
Chapter 8
 The term derivational relations refers to the type of
word knowledge that more advanced readers and writers
possess. Spelling and vocabulary knowledge at this
stage develop primarily through processes of derivation
in which new words result from the addition of prefixes
and suffixes to a single base word or word root.
Exploration of words at the derivational relations stage
prompts more extensive experience in reading and
writing skills. There is a close correlation between
growth in vocabulary, spelling knowledge, and the
amount of reading and writing that occurs in the
derivational relations spelling stage
 The derivational relations stage can be composed of
students in upper elementary, middle school, and high
school, as well as adults; therefore, most mistakes made
will be at a “high level” of spelling competency. These
mistakes will require a more advanced foundation in
spelling and vocabulary to correct. It is imperative that
individuals at the derivational relations stage explore the
logic underlying the correct spellings of these words not
only to help them learn and remember their correct
spelling but also to develop a deeper understanding and
appreciation of how words work. Vocabulary
development progresses through this understanding and
appreciation of words and how they work.
 An ever-expanding conceptual foundation and the
addition of words that represent this foundation underlie
the type of word knowledge that transpires through
advanced reading and writing. Advanced readers have
the capability to explore the Greek and Latin word
elements that are the essential morphemes from which
thousands of words are assembled. Linguists estimate
that 60% to 80% of English vocabulary is built through
the grouping of roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
Comprehending these processes will allow students to
analyze and understand the unfamiliar words that they
will encounter in the content area reading materials of
middle school and high school. Students gain access to
these words primarily through reading experiences. The
advanced reader picks up morphemic chunks as well as
syllabic chunks in polysyllabic words.
 Words that are related in meaning are often related in
spelling, despite changes in sound. Therefore, if you are
uncertain how to spell a word, try to think of a word that
is comparable in meaning that you do know how to spell.
This concept presents a tremendous opportunity to
integrate spelling and vocabulary instruction. In a group
of related words a number of sounds may change, while
the spelling remains the same. For this purpose,
students need to be guided to first notice particular
changes may that represent an increasing order of
difficulty and abstractness.
Characteristics of Derivational Relations Spelling
What Students Do Correctly
Early Derivational Relations Spell most words correctly
trapped, humor, sailor
CONFUDENSE for confidence,
What is Absent
Unstressed vowels in
derivationally related pairs –
Note: No features are
completely absent
Vowel patterns in accented
Suffixes and prefixes
Doubling and e drop at syllable
Others spelling meaning
OPISISION for oppostion
Middle Derivational Relations
What Students Use but
CRITISIZE / critic
All of the above Common Latin
suffixes and prefixes
CLOROFIL for chlorophyl
Some silent letters: emfasize
for emphasize
Greek and Latin elements
MEDISINAL for medicinal
Late Derivational Relations All of the above
OPOSITION for opposition
DOMINENCE for dominance
Absorbed prefixes:
Advanced Latin suffixes:
Foreign borrowing: CROKAY for
Word Study Instruction
During the Derivational
Relations Stage
 Word study for advanced readers stresses active
exploration of words and the use of word knowledge for
spelling, vocabulary development, and the investigation
of unknown words encountered in reading. Teachers can
inform students that they are now going to be learning
how spelling indicates meaning.
Sequence and Pacing
 See the table below for a general progression of word
study in the derivational relations stage. The Greek and
Latin word roots that occur with the greatest frequency
should be studied initially. The knowledge of how
elements merge within words provides a resilient
foundation and prolific strategy for continuing
vocabulary and spelling growth.
Consonant and Vowel Alternations
1. Consonant Alternations
Silent/sounded sign/signal, condemn/condemnation,
/t/ to /sh/ connect/connection, select/selection
/k/ to /sh/ music/musician, magic/magician
/k/ to /s/ critic/criticize, political/politicize
/s/ to /sh/ prejudice/prejudicial, office/official
2. Vowel Alternations
Long to short crime/criminal, ignite/ignition,
Long to schwa compete/competition, define/definition,
Schwa to short local/locality, legal/legality, metal/metallic
 3. Suffix Study
Explore the addition of -sion, -tion, -ian to basewords.
Greek & Latin Word Elements
 Start with Greek number prefixes mono- (one), bi(two), tri- (three), and move to the Greek roots tele(far, distant), therm- (heat), photo- (light), and astr(star). (See lists in Appendix E. in the WTW Text).
 Move to frequent Latin roots with the aim of gaining a
working understanding of a few frequent occurring roots
with relatively concrete and constant meanings: -tract(draw, pull), -spect- (look), -port- (carry), -dict- (to
say), -rupt- (to break), and -scrib- (to write). (See lists
in Appendix E. in the WTW Text).
 Explore additional Latin and Greek prefixes, building on
those already taught at the syllables and affixes stage.
 Prefix Meaning Prefix Meaning
 inter- between sub- under
 intra- within pre- before
 super- over; greater anti- against
 counter- opposing demi- half
 ex- our semi- half
 fore- before quadr- four
 post- after pent- five
 pro- in front of, forward
Explore common Greek suffixes
 4. Explore common Greek suffixes
 Suffix Meaning
 -crat/-cracy rule
 -emia condition of the blood
 -ician specialist in
 -ine chemical substance
 -ism/-ist belief in; one who believes
 -logy/-logist science of; scientist
 -pathy/-path disease; one who suffers from a disease
 -phobia abnormal fear
Predictable Spelling Changes in Consonants
and Vowels
1./t/ to /sh/ permit/permission,
2./t/ to /s/ silent/silence
3./d/ to /zh/ explode/explosion, decide/decision
4./sh/ to /s/ ferocious/ferocity, precocity
5.Long to short vain/vanity, receive/reception,
6.Long to schwa explain/explanation,
Advanced Suffix Study
1.-able/-ible respectable, favorable versus visible,
2.-ant/-ance fragrant/fragrance,
-ent/-ence dependent/dependence,
1.Consonant occurred, permitted versus traveled,
doubling and accent
Absorbed Prefixes
1.Prefix + base word in + mobile = immobile; ad +
count = account
2.Prefix + word root ad + cept = accept, in + mune
= immune
 The difficulty of the word meanings, rather than the
difficulty of reading the words, may restrict decisions about
what features are taught in this stage. At this level it is
okay to add some new vocabulary words to sorts, but the
majority of words should be familiar in order for students to
make generalizations, progressing from known to unknown
words. Unlike the letter name alphabetic stage and the
within-word pattern stage, there is less of a sense of
urgency to progress through the derivational relations stage
due to the fact that students and adults will be in the stage
for a long time. As a matter of fact, word study for
derivational relations is generally drawn out over the middle
school and high school years and never really ends!
However, it is of supreme importance that students study
the spelling-meaning connections in order to boost
students’ vocabulary.
Consonant Alternation
 Consonant alternation occurs when there are consonants
that are silent in one word, but they may be “sounded”
in a related word. The study of consonant alternations
should begin with silent/sounded pairs, for instance
hasten/haste and soften/soft. A good strategy to help
students learn to remember the spelling of a word with a
silent consonant is to try to think of a word that is
related in spelling and meaning. Another consonant
alternation pattern involves alternations which change
the consonant sound by adding an ending, such as
Vowel Alternation
When affixes are added and the accented syllables change an alternation
may occur in the sound of the vowel while the spelling of the vowel
remains the same. This occurrence is called a vowel alternation. Vowel
alternation patterns should be presented in a logical sequence in order
for students to benefit most from their studies of these patterns. A good
starting point would be the study of related words which comprise simple
vowel alternations that change from long-to-short vowel sounds as
suffixes are added, such as sane to sanity. Next, students should
examine vowel alternations in which the vowel is reduced from the long
sound to the schwa sound when a suffix is added, as in invite to
invitation. Finally, students should analyze vowel alternations where the
schwa sound is reduced to a short vowel, for instance local to locality.
To help students learn that vowels are heard most noticeably in the
accented syllable, vowel alternation sorts should commence with the
pairing of derived words and then grouping the pairs by the changes in
the vowel sounds and stressed syllables. This technique will also help
students remember that the spelling of the schwa in an unaccented
syllable can be ascertained by thinking of a related word in which that
syllable is accented.
Adding –ion to words
The suffix /shun/ can be spelled by several means and also influences the
base word in fascinating ways. It could cause a vowel to alternate or a final
consonant sound to change. The ending of the base word must be
contemplated when spelling the /shun/ suffix. Listed below is a synopsis of the
rules and the sequence of introduction for students.
Base words that end in -ct or -ss just add -ion (traction, expression).
Base words that end in -ic add -ian (magician).
Base words that end in -te drop the e and add -ion (translation).
Base words that end in -ce drop the e and add -tion (reduce/reduction).
Base words that end in -de and -it drop those letters and add -sion or -ssion
(decide/decision, admit/admission).
Sometimes -ation is added to the base word but causes little trouble for
spellers because it can be heard (transport/transportation).
Word sorts should be conducted in which students pair the base word with its
derivative, followed by having students group the pairs by the spelling pattern
and look for the type of vowel or consonant alternations that have taken place.
Teachers need to develop word sorts that will help students observe the
occurrence of multiple alternations in a group of related words.
Greek & Latin Elements
 Typically Greek and Latin elements (roots or stems) do not stand
alone as opposed to base words, such as struct (“build”) in
restructure. Greek roots may combine in different places in words;
whereas, Latin stems tend to remain in one place, do not move
around, and have prefixes and suffixes attach to them. The term
“word root” can be used to introduce the concept of Greek and Latin
word parts to students. Then, upon comprehension of the word
parts and how they work, teachers can point out the distinction
between Greek roots and Latin stems.
 Word roots rest inside a word and can be a much needed anchor to
which prefixes and suffixes may attach. The spelling-meaning
principle applies to roots in which words with similar meanings are
usually spelled similarly. Also, it is essential that students know that
spelling visually signifies the meaning of these elements and guards
the meaning relationships among words that initially may appear
quite different, for instance the constant spelling of -jud- in the
words judge, prejudice, and adjudicate. Roots may initially be
difficult to locate; however, their frequent spelling is crucial in
identifying them and analyzing how they function within words.
Predictable Spelling Changes
in Vowels and Consonants
 Once word roots and their derivational relatives have
been explored, students can begin to study related
words that have both sound and spelling changes. This
alternation occurs regularly in word families. Students
discover that base words with the ai or ei spelling will
change to a or e for the derived word’s spelling.
Students will come to this conclusion based on what
they have learned from the spelling-meaning patterns.
Base words can be paired with their derivative in word
sorts, for instance receive/reception,
exclaim/exclamation, and detain/detention. The words
can then be sorted into pairs according to the specific
spelling change that has taken place.
Advanced Suffix Study
 There are some suffixes that provide occasional difficulty for
even advanced readers and writers, for instance -able/-ible
seems to be misspelled frequently. A helpful generalization
for these suffixes is: If the suffix is joined to a base word
that can stand alone, it is typically spelled -able; if it is
connected to a word root, it is generally spelled -ible. Base
words that end in e will frequently drop the e and add able; whereas, soft c or g endings may be preceded by ible. The -ant/-ance and -ent/-ence can be understood by
knowing the spelling of a word that ends in one of these
suffixes. Also, the addition of inflected endings and
consonant doubling is re-examined in the derivational
relations stage for words containing polysyllables. The
general rule for doubling the final consonant before adding ed is that if the last syllable of the base word is accented,
the final consonant should be doubled. However, if the last
syllable is not accented, you should not double the final
consonant. Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions to this
rule, traveled and benefitted, that have occurred because,
over time, many people have misspelled the word and this
misspelling has worked its way into the dictionary as the
accepted spelling of the word.
Absorbed Prefixes
 The study of prefixes begins in the syllable and affixes
stage. Although most prefixes are easily located, there is
a group that is somewhat disguised, as in the word
illegal. The only indication of the prefix is the doubled
letters. Such prefixes are known as absorbed or
assimilated prefixes and cause the most challenging
spelling trouble for students because they rely on
extensive prior knowledge about other basic spellingmeaning patterns, processes of adding prefixes to base
words, and simple Greek and Latin roots. Absorbed or
assimilated prefixes are mainly Latin in origin and are
prevalent in English.
Content Area Vocabulary
 In this stage students will not only need to master the
systematic study of orthographic and derivational
features, but also many words from content areas.
Chapter 7 of the WTW text describes ideas about
activating background knowledge and the use of graphic
organizers. “More ideas can be found in books that deal
specifically with vocabulary such as Bringing Words to
Life (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002), Teaching Word
Meanings (Stahl & Nagy, 2006), and the Vocabulary
Handbook (Diamond and Gutlohn, 2006).” (p. 242)
Word Origins
 A strong knowledge base for learning spelling and
vocabulary can be bestowed by exploring the origins of
words and the processes of word creation, in addition to
facilitating more effective reading and writing. Etymology,
the study of word origins, could possibly cultivate into a
lifelong fascination for many individuals. This groundwork
can be set through the focused exploration of etymology as
students examine word roots and affixes. A genuine sense
of how words work at this level in addition to a general
sense of how words can move through history is developed
during this stage. The understanding of an unusually spelled
word’s origins helps to provide students with the most
powerful key to remembering the spelling of the word. To
arouse students’ inquisitiveness about word origins you
might read aloud selections from mythology, literature, or
historical books when additional time is available. It may
also create interest to examine words that have been
imported from other countries. A fun activity to conduct in
the classroom is to post a large world map on the wall and
exhibit words according to their country of origin.
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