Early morphological processing is sensitive to morphemic meanings: Evidence from processing ambiguous morphemes

Yiu Kei TSANG*, Hsuan Chih Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


In three priming experiments, we investigated whether the meanings of ambiguous morphemes were activated during word recognition. Using a meaning generation task, Experiment 1 demonstrated that the dominant meaning of individually presented ambiguous morphemes was reported more often than did other less frequent meanings. Also, participants tended to produce responses that were consistent with the morphemic meaning of the subliminally presented prime words. Experiment 2 employed a masked priming lexical decision task (prime display duration = 40. ms) and showed that the recognition of targets which took the dominant meaning of ambiguous morphemes was facilitated by all morpheme-sharing primes, regardless of their intended interpretation. In contrast, morphological priming for subordinate targets was observed only in the subordinate priming condition. Using an unmasked priming task (prime display duration = 100. ms). Experiment 3 revealed that lexical decision responses were facilitated only when the morphemic interpretations in primes and targets were matched. These data indicate that the different meanings of an ambiguous morpheme are activated early during word recognition and that it takes time to select the appropriate morphemic interpretation. The results are discussed with reference to a modified lemma model of word recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-239
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

User-Defined Keywords

  • Ambiguity
  • Lemma
  • Masked priming
  • Morphological processing
  • Word recognition


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