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Publication - Professor Colin Davis

    Seeing stems everywhere

    Position-independent identification of stem morphemes


    Davis, CJ, 2013, ‘Seeing stems everywhere: Position-independent identification of stem morphemes’. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, vol 39., pp. 510-525


    There is broad consensus that printed complex words are identified on
    the basis of their constituent morphemes. This fact raises the issue of
    how the word identification system codes for morpheme position, hence
    allowing it to distinguish between words like overhang and hangover, and to recognize that preheat is a word, whereas heatpre
    is not. Recent data have shown that suffixes are identified as
    morphemes only when they occur at the end of letter strings (Crepaldi,
    Rastle, & Davis, 2010, “Morphemes in Their Place: Evidence for
    Position-Specific Identification of Suffixes,” Memory & Cognition,
    38, 312–321), which supports the general proposal that the word
    identification system is sensitive to morpheme positional constraints.
    This proposal leads to the prediction that the identification of free
    stems should occur in a position-independent fashion, given that free
    stems can occur anywhere within complex words (e.g., overdress and dresser). In Experiment 1, we show that the rejection time of transposed-constituent pseudocompounds (e.g., moonhoney) is longer than that of matched control nonwords (e.g., moonbasin),
    suggesting that honey and moon are identified within moonhoney, and
    that these morpheme representations activate the representation for the
    word honeymoon. In Experiments 2 and 3, we demonstrate that the masked
    presentation of transposed-constituent pseudocompounds (e.g., moonhoney) facilitates the identification of compound words (honeymoon). In contrast, monomorphemic control pairs do not produce a similar pattern (i.e., rickmave did not prime maverick), indicating that the effect for moonhoney
    pairs is genuinely morphological in nature. These results demonstrate
    that stem representations differ from affix representations in terms of
    their positional constraints, providing a challenge to all existing
    theories of morphological processing.

    Full details in the University publications repository