Morpho-semantic processing in word recognition: Evidence from balanced and biased ambiguous morphemes

Yiu Kei TSANG*, Hsuan Chih Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The role of morphemic meaning in Chinese word recognition was examined with the masked and unmasked priming paradigms. Target words contained ambiguous morphemes biased toward the dominant or the subordinate meanings. Prime words either contained the same ambiguous morphemes in the subordinate interpretations or were unrelated to the targets. In addition, the relative frequency of the alternative meanings of ambiguous morphemes could be balanced (i.e., the alternative meanings are of similar frequency) or biased (i.e., one of the meanings is used much more frequently). The recognition of subordinate targets was facilitated by the subordinate primes for both balanced and biased items, regardless of the priming procedure. However, the subordinate primes did not facilitate the recognition of dominant targets, except for biased items in masked priming. These results are interpreted as supporting the hypothesis that morphemic meaning is activated to constrain morphological priming even at the early stage of processing. Yet, morpho-semantic activation is modulated by the frequency of the intended morphemic interpretations. Therefore, because of the high frequency of use, the dominant meanings of biased ambiguous morphemes can nevertheless be activated by the subordinate primes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1990-2001
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Ambiguity
  • Morphological processing
  • Word recognition


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