Activation of morphemic meanings in processing opaque words

Yiu-Kei Tsang*, Hsuan-Chih Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Two masked priming experiments were conducted to examine the activation of morphemic forms and meanings during opaque word processing. In Experiment 1, opaque primes significantly facilitated the recognition of transparent targets, which was consistent with previous results. However, transparent primes did not influence the recognition of opaque targets. This asymmetry could not be explained solely by morpho-orthographic processing, but it was consistent with models that have assumed early morpho-semantic activation. Experiment 2 directly tested whether the meanings of the constituent morphemes in opaque words were activated. In the critical condition, the targets were unrelated to the opaque primes at the lexical level, but were semantically related to their morphemes (e.g., “butterfly–bread”). Facilitation was observed in this condition, providing strong evidence of morpho-semantic activation during opaque-word recognition. These findings indicate that although initial morphological decomposition is determined by surface morphological form, it does not necessarily imply that morphemic meanings will be activated at later stages of processing. Rather, the morphemic meanings may be available automatically once segmentation is complete.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1281-1286
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
Early online date8 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese
  • Morpho-semantics
  • Morphological processing
  • Semantic transparency


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