, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 312-321

Morphemes in their place: Evidence for position-specific identification of suffixes

Abstract

Previous research strongly suggests that morphologically complex words are recognized in terms of their constituent morphemes. A question thus arises as to how the recognition system codes for morpheme position within words, given that it needs to distinguish morphological anagrams like overhang and hangover. The present study focused specifically on whether the recognition of suffixes occurs in a position-specific fashion. Experiments 1 and 2 revealed that morphologically complex nonwords (gasful ) are rejected more slowly than orthographic controls (gasfil ) but that the same interference effect is not present when the morphemic constituents are reversed ( fulgas vs. filgas). Experiment 3 went further in demonstrating that reversing the morphemes within words (e.g., nesskind) does not yield morpheme interference effects against orthographic controls (e.g., nusskind). These results strongly suggest that suffix identification is position specific, which imposes important constraints on the further development of models of morphological processing.

The present work was carried out at the Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, where the first author was holding a postdoctoral fellowship granted by the Economic and Social Research Council, U.K. (PTA-026-27-1825).