Why Lie?

Well, the International Dyslexia Association has done it AGAIN: They’ve published a flagship article on morphology in their periodical, Perspectives, and it’s FULL OF LANGUAGE LIES. But whyyyyyyyy though? I’ve been at this for a decade, and these people know me and they now my work. But they insist on publishing lies. In a four-page article, there are more than a dozen falsehoods.

Here they are:

1. It is not “necess[ary]” to “identify and categorize…Anglo-Saxon compounds, inflectional affixes, and derivational suffixes; Latin-based prefixes, roots, and derivational suffixes; and Greek-based combining forms.” (23) This is a false taxonomy, and I’ve written and taught about that extensively for a decade. It’s a lie.

2. The word lamppost not *Anglo-Saxon. Lamp is Greek and post is Latin. (24)

3. The words speller and respelling are not *Anglo-Saxon. (23) While <spell> is a Germanic base, this sense was not around in Old English (duh, because the Anglo-Saxons were terrible spellers). It’s from French, and it didn’t settle in until the Middle English period. Moreover, the <re-> prefix is Latinate.

4. It is false that “Latin-based words…usually affix.” (23) The linguistic FACT is that all Indo-European languages compound, including Latin. The problem here is that the author, and the millions of mistaken minions who cite her work and follow in her footsteps, fail to recognize Latinate base elements that aren’t in complex words. Take post, for example, from #2. Or suitpants, case, class, cup, plate, cross, verse, cry, grace, table, crayon, pen, pencil, mirror, air, add, fairy, couch, dinner, lunch, supper, tube, plane, plant — these are all Latinate. And there’s a lot more where those came from. Latinate compounds include suitcase, pantsuit, briefcase, universe, pencap, airplane, and, in case you’re feeling like dropping to your knees right now, genuflect.

Rage interlude:

For the love of God, why won’t the IDA just pay some college kid $12 an hour to fact-check this shit before they publish it? I’m no longer an IDA member. Haven’t been for a long time, because I got tired of paying for lies. Are YOU an IDA member? How many hundreds of dollars do you pay each year to be lied to? Why are you paying to read the same morphotwaddle and edymuddle you’ve been reading for 40 years? Have YOU bothered asking the IDA to stop publishing lies? Because they’re sure as hell not listening to me, and I’m publishing the truth for free.

This article even refers to the current “research and professional practice guidelines on morphological awareness and etymology” and “word origin and word stducture,” and it has a whole section on “Word Origins.” So if this stuff is important enough to write about and publish in a so-called “scientific” journal, then why on Earth is it not important enough to bother with accuracy? Why is this kind of malpractice acceptable to anyone?

5. Just because Latinate words are “often thought of as more advanced words” (24) doesn’t mean that’s a fact. People think that because the IDA keeps blaring it on repeat, for one thing, even though it’s false. Again, Latinate words that do not fit this preconceived notion are dismissed as *Anglo-Saxon, without the author or the editors even so much as googling it.

6. The claim that “most Latin bases contain short vowels” (24) is specious at best. Sure, you can cherry-pick examples (in this article, there’s six of them), but I can cherry-pick twice as many that do not have *short vowels: sane, mete (n.), cite, note, rule, cute, farmgerm, firm, dorm, curve, and court. Once again, these non-*short-vowel free base elements are all Latinate, but they’re overlooked in the mad and perpetual attempt to cram these square morphological pegs into some round pedagogical hole, because they are misidentified as *Anglo-Saxon, for the millionth time.  Moreover, the example of dict that was given as an example of a *short vowel? Yeah, not so much in indict. See, you have to actually look at a word family, not just at disembodied morphemes that you think you know.

7. I appreciate that the article identifies that some Latinate bases are twins (24), but (a) there is no clue here about (a) what makes a twin base a twin base, or (b) how to determine whether bases are twins or are otherwise related.

8.  All four examples of twin base elements that are given bear inaccuracies. The article gives *vers/vert, *stru/struct, *mis/miss, and *pel/pulse. While the word families being referenced do indeed bear twin base elements, the forms given are inaccurate. It’s not *vers; it’s <verse>. I mean, that is a FREE base element and you can SEE how the damn word is spelled! Same with *puls — it’s <pulse>. The *stru also needs a final <e>, as in construe, at least parenthetically: <stru(e)>. Finally, there is no Latinate *mis — the twins are <mit> and <miss>, as in transmit~transmission. These rotten scrambled eggs are what the IDA is serving YOU for breakfast.

9. “Greek-based words” do NOT “generally compound” (24). Again, that’s only true if you cherry-pick and don’t bother to actually do any research to see if your statements are falsifiable or not. They are. Like Latinate words, the Greek words that do not fit this false typologizing are simply dismissed or ignored as *Anglo-Saxon. Words like lamp, base, music, magic, angel, school, type, math, desk, circle, zone, giant, turn, story, and chair are all from Greek. So, of course, as I have pointed out eleventy kajillion times, is the word dyslexia, which has a prefix, a base, and a suffix. Not a *combining form in sight. Other Hellenic words that aren’t compounds include autism, genesis, biome, historical, electricity, blasphemy, cardiac, prophecy, neurotic, and, ironically as all get out in this ascientific phield, phonetics.

10. There is no *<pt> or *<mn> in English. That’s not what’s happening in those words. The 3rd volume of my LEX Grapheme Deck will clear that right up for you.

11. No one has to follow any list of morphemes to teach, because if you just study words properly, then the most frequent patterns (affixes and bases) will emerge time and time again. That’s what “frequent” means. It doesn’t have to be packaged or canned.

12. The claim that “most Latin and Greek bases are bound bases” is not an empirical claim. The thing is, as I have already demonstrated above, free base elements of Classical origin are most frequently misidentified as *Anglo-Saxon.

13. The word respelled doesn’t necessarily mean “spelled again.” More typically, it means “spelled differently,” as in The Norman scribes respelled Old English <cw> as <qu>.

14. The article claims that “Prior to instruction, teachers need to be sure students understand the structure of polysyllabic words containing morphemes. Students need to understand that compound words are generally composed of two free bases…” (25) The problems with that claim are threefold: (a) all polysyllabic words contain morphemes. In fact, all words contain morphemes. There is no such thing as a word that does not contain morphemes. (b) Compounds do not necessarily have two free bases. The problem is that the OG world mistakes base elements as prefixes all the time, and that it fails to recognize bound base elements. Besides, you can’t have it both ways! How is it possible to have Greek *combining forms that compound while simultaneously having compounds that are mostly two free bases? Compounds with at least one bound base abound! Monday, Friday, genuflect, alderman, amphibian, aqueduct, and so many more. But wait! There’s more! (c) How in the hell are students supposed to understand any of this — even the falsehoods — “prior to instruction”? By osmosis? Brain transplants? Please, someone tell me how teachers are supposed to make sure their students know things before they’re instructed.

15. <fore> is not a “prefix” (25). It is a free base element, as anyone who plays golf knows; it compounds in lots of words, including pinafore, foreword, forehead, foreground, foremost, therefore, and heretofore (which has three base elements); and it is the only base element in the words before and afore. Likewise, <fold> is not a suffix; it’s a free base element.

16. There is absolutely no empirical reason that children have to be in 2nd grade before they learn about suffixing changes. (25)

17Several friends and colleagues pointed out to me that my work is cited in this article; however, just as in the DTI conference keynote, I am misquoted. The article claims that I “cite[] the example of cred in credit, credential, credence, and incredulous, (25) BUT I DON’T. I never, ever, ever say or have said anything about *cred other than to discount it. The base element in this family is <crede>, as evidenced by the fact that the words are not *creddit, *creddence, or *increddulous.

18. There is no Latinate base *<litera>. This is an error in this author’s work that I have corrected directly to her in the past. The base element, as shown in the matrix cited from my work, is <liter>. This matters because *<litera + ate ➙ literaate>, obvs.

19. No, please do not “match prefixes with their meanings,” (26) because prefixes don’t necessarily have “meanings.” They have a force, semantically speaking. As noted with <re> above, the “meaning” isn’t always ‘again.’ If I borrow money and repay you, I don’t pay you again; I pay you back. If I rely on someone, I’m not bound again; I’m bound intensively. The same thing can happen with any prefix. A <un> does not always mean ‘not.’ If I do my hair in a bun, and then I undo it, that doesn’t mean I did not do it. It means that I reversed what I already did. Sometimes prefixes and suffixes were added to words, in Latin especially, just to make them bigger, not necessarily to carry any actual semantic or syntactic force.

20Likewise, do not “match suffixes with their parts of speech,” (25) because that creates a false rigidity. If you teach that <-ed> is a “verb suffix,” then how do you explain words like talented or bowlegged, when neither talent nor leg is a verb? If you teach that <-ion> is a “noun suffix,” then how do you explain The prosecutors questioned the witnesses and the defense team championed their client’s good character? Huh? How? Also, as someone who teaches a lot of grammar in a lot of depth to everyone from pre-K kids to in-service teachers with PhDs, I’m on the record here with this claim: teaching the parts of speech of disembodied suffixes is not grammar. Studying how grammatical categories actually work in phrases and clauses, and learning what makes a noun a noun and an adjective an adjective is both critical and missing in grammatical study.

21There is no such word as *multimorphemic. The proper term is polymorphemic, because it’s all Greek, or, better yet, complex. A word with more than one morpheme can just be called complex, IDA, or compound, as the case may be.

One of the suggestions this article offers for a “Follow-Up and Reinforcement” (26) activity is to have students “Identify the language of origin in a word.” To this, I’d like to add, “and please use an actual flippin’ proper dictionary to do so. Do not guess.” Likewise, it suggests that students can “Find the etymology of an unknown word by going to www.etymonline.com” — which is great advice — but it’s advice that the author herself does not bother to take, as I’ve demonstrated over and over again.

But why though, IDA?

Is this the best you can offer your 10,000n members?




  1. Kristin M Clark says:

    Still laughing at “Rage interlude” and wondering why there aren’t more of them! There is absolutely no excuse for these kinds of errors in published work when the facts are easy enough to find. It is like a math book saying 1 + 1 = 3. It is just not okay to publish factual errors like this. Pardon me while I take a rage interlude.

  2. Mona Voelkel says:

    Thank you, Gina, for sharing your scholarship!

  3. Kathy Hastings says:

    Gina – I appreciate your sharing these numerous errors. What is alarming to me is that IDA is reviewing reading programs and providing accreditation (for a steep price) to schools of higher education. As you illustrate so clearly- it seems they are in need of review.

  4. mariefoleyreadingMarie Foley says:

    Thanks for this post Gina. What resonates for me is your comment where you say, “they.ve (the IDA) overlooked in the mad and perpetual attempt to cram these square morphological pegs into some round pedagogical hole, because they are misidentified as *Anglo-Saxon, for the millionth time.” What happens, and I am speaking as a dyslexic learner, when you provide misinformation to kids, especially dyslexic kids is it creates confusion. Confusion often leads to a sense of shame as we fail to reproduce what was taught not knowing that it has been mistaught. Too often, and for too many dyslexic students this creates a sense of shame. Instead of making progress, we end up feeling like square pegs in round holes or worse round pegs in square holes. It is so important to tell the truth about language. It is so important to get accurate education in the hands of teachers and the minds of students. Accurate teaching gives all students equal access to the ability to read and spell. Isn’t that the goal of being an educator?

    • Thank you, Marie. It is a great joy to study with you and to see first-hand the relief and understanding that care and accuracy can provide for scholars with dyslexia, of all ages. I also know what it is to look into a face that I have just further confused with grayish, blurry gobbledygook about syllables or nonsense words or false etymologies. Been there, done that.

      The truth levels the playing field. It makes *everyone* into a scholar, a learner, someone who’s paying attention and noticing things because they are REAL. When we rely on falsehoods like syllable division and that silly Layers of Language triangle, it privileges certain kinds of learners, and they’re not dyslexic. Falsehoods privilege learners who are quick, facile thinkers who can easily memorize things, whether they are true or now. I’m that kind of learner, so I understand. I have to work at depth, to make myself slow down and attend to detail.

      Most dyslexics process language more slowly than I do. Properly oriented, with accuracy and empirical tools, that slowness can be parlayed into a depth of analysis that anchors an ongoing understanding forever. You cannot stabilize an understanding with falsehoods, with syllable division, with fake etymology. Only the facts can make us all into truth-seekers and critical thinkers.

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