Morphology and Meaning in the English Mental Lexicon

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Abstract

The authors investigated the lexical entry for morphologically complex words in English. Six experiments, using a cross-modal repetition priming task, asked whether the lexical entry for derivationally suffixed and prefixed words is morphologically structured and how this relates to the semantic and phonological transparency of the surface relationship between stem and affix. There was clear evidence for morphological decomposition of semantically transparent forms. This was independent of phonological transparency, suggesting that morphemic representations are phonologically abstract. Semantically opaque forms, in contrast, behave like monomorphemic words. Overall, suffixed and prefixed derived words and their stems prime each other through shared morphemes in the lexical entry, except for pairs of suffixed forms, which show a cohort-based interference effect.

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