Memory & Cognition

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 335–350 | Cite as

Processing of Norwegian complex verbs: Evidence for early decomposition

  • Dave KushEmail author
  • Brian Dillon
  • Ragnhild Eik
  • Adrian Staub


We examined the processing of Norwegian complex verbs—compounds consisting of a prepositional prefix and a verbal root—to investigate the lexical decomposition of such morphologically complex compounds. In an eyetracking-while-reading study, we tested whether reading time measures were significantly predicted by a compound verb’s whole-word frequency, its root family frequency, or some combination thereof. The results suggest that whole-word and root family frequencies make independent contributions to first-fixation durations. Subsequent reading time measures were better predicted by either whole-word frequency, root family frequency, or both in tandem. We interpret these results as providing support for hybrid models of lexical representation, in which complex verbs are associated with an atomic (whole-word) representation linked to the lexical entries for the compound’s constituent morphemes.


Morphological decomposition Compounds Complex verbs Eyetracking Norwegian 


  1. Akaike, H. (1973). Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. In B. N. Petrov & F. Csáki (Eds.), Second International Symposium on Information Theory (pp. 267–281). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, M., & Badecker, W. (2002). Inflectional regularity: Probing the nature of lexical representation in a cross-modal priming task. Journal of Memory and Language, 46, 705–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andrews, S. (1986). Morphological influences on lexical access: Lexical or nonlexical effects? Journal of Memory and Language, 25, 726–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andrews, S., & Heathcote, A. (2001). Distinguishing common and task specific processes in word identification: A matter of some moment? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 27, 514–544. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andrews, S., Miller, B., & Rayner, K. (2004). Eye movements and morphological segmentation of compound words: There is a mouse in mousetrap. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 16, 285–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baayen, R. H., & Schreuder, R. (1999). War and peace: Morphemes and full forms in a noninteractive activation parallel dual-route model. Brain and Language, 68, 27–32. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baayen, R. H., & Schreuder, R. (2000). Towards a psycholinguistic computational model for morphological parsing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Series A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences), 358, 1–13.Google Scholar
  8. Baayen, R. H., Wurm, L. H., & Aycock, J. (2007). Lexical dynamics for low-frequency complex words: A regression study across tasks and modalities. Mental Lexicon, 2, 419–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baroni, M., Bernardini, S., Ferraresi, A., & Zanchetta, E. (2009). The WaCky wide web: A collection of very large linguistically processed web-crawled corpora. Language Resources and Evaluation, 43, 209–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2014). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using Eigen and S4 (R package version 1). Retrieved from
  11. Beauvillain, C. (1996). The integration of morphological and whole-word form information during eye fixations on prefixed and suffixed words. Journal of Memory and Language, 35, 801–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bertram, R., & Hyönä, J. (2003). The length of a complex word modifies the role of morphological structure: Evidence from eye movements when reading short and long Finnish compounds. Journal of Memory and Language, 48, 615–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bronk, M., Zwitserlood, P., & Bölte, J. (2013). Manipulations of word frequency reveal differences in the processing of morphologically complex and simple words in German. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 546. PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Butterworth, B. (1983). Lexical representation. In B. Butterworth (Ed.), Language production Vol. 2 (pp. 257–294). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  15. Colé, P., Beauvillain, C., & Segui, J. (1989). On the representation and processing of prefixed and suffixed derived words: A differential frequency effect. Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dronjic, V. (2011). Mandarin Chinese compounds, their representation, and processing in the visual modality. Writing Systems Research, 3, 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Drummond, A. (2012). Ibex Farm (Software). Retrieved from
  18. Duñabeitia, J. A., Perea, M., & Carreiras, M. (2007). The role of the frequency of constituents in compound words: Evidence from Basque and Spanish. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 1171–1176. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fiorentino, R., & Poeppel, D. (2007). Compound words and structure in the lexicon. Language and Cognitive Processes, 22, 953–1000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frauenfelder, U. H., & Schreuder, R. (1992). Constraining psycholinguistic models of morphological processing and representation: The role of productivity. In G. Booij & J. van Marle (Eds.), Yearbook of morphology 1991 (pp. 165–183). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frisson, S., Niswander-Klement, E., & Pollatsek, A. (2008). The role of semantic transparency in the processing of English compound words. British Journal of Psychology, 99, 87–107. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Giraudo, H., & Grainger, J. (2000). Effects of prime word frequency and cumulative root frequency in masked morphological priming. Language and Cognitive Processes, 15, 421–444. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Guevara, E. (2010). NoWaC: A large web-based corpus for Norwegian. In A. Kilgarriff, D. Lin, & S. Sharoff (Eds.), Proceedings of the NAACL HLT 2010 Sixth Web as Corpus Workshop (pp. 1–7). Stroudsburg: Association for Computational Linguistics.Google Scholar
  24. Hyönä, J., & Pollatsek, A. (1998). Reading Finnish compound words: Eye fixations are affected by component morphemes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 1612–1627. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Juhasz, B. J. (2007). The influence of semantic transparency on eye movements during English compound word recognition. In R. P. G. Van Gompel & X. Vamvakoussi (Eds.), Eye movements: A window on mind and brain (pp. 373–389). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science and Technology.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Juhasz, B. J. (2008). The processing of compound words in English: Effects of word length on eye movements during reading. Language and Cognitive Processes, 23, 1057–1088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Juhasz, B. J., Starr, M. S., Inhoff, A. W., & Placke, L. (2003). The effects of morphology on the processing of compound words: Evidence from naming, lexical decisions and eye fixations, British Journal of Psychology, 94, 223–244.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kuperman, V., Bertram, R., & Baayen, R. H. (2008). Morphological dynamics in compound processing. Language and Cognitive Processes, 23, 1089–1132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kuperman, V., Schreuder, R., Bertram, R., & Baayen, R. H. (2009). Reading polymorphemic Dutch compounds: Toward a multiple route model of lexical processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35, 875–895. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kuznetsova, A., Brockhoff, P. B., & Christensen, R. H. B. (2016). Package “lmerTest” (R package, version 2). Retrieved from
  31. Libben, G. (1998). Semantic transparency in the processing of compounds: Consequences for representation, processing, and impairment, Brain and Language, 61, 30–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Libben, G. (2010). Compound words, semantic transparency, and morphological transcendence. Linguistische Berichte, Sonderheft, 17, 317–330.Google Scholar
  33. Libben, G., Gibson, M., Yoon, Y. B., & Sandra, D. (2003). Compound fracture: The role of semantic transparency and morphological headedness. Brain and Language, 84, 50–64. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Marslen-Wilson, W., Tyler, L. K., Waksler, R., & Older, L. (1994). Morphology and meaning in the English mental lexicon. Psychological Review, 101, 3–33. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Müller, S., Scealy, J. L., & Welsh, A. H. (2013). Model selection in linear mixed models. Statistical Science, 28, 135–167. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Niswander-Klement, E., & Pollatsek, A. (2006). The effects of root frequency, word frequency, and length on the processing of prefixed English words during reading. Memory & Cognition, 34, 685–702. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pollatsek, A., & Hyönä, J. (2005). The role of semantic transparency in the processing of Finnish compound words. Language and Cognitive Processes, 20, 261–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pollatsek, A., Hyönä, J., & Bertram, R. (2000). The role of morphological constituents in reading Finnish compound words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 26, 820–833. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pollatsek, A., Slattery, T. J., & Juhasz, B. (2008). The processing of novel and lexicalised prefixed words in reading. Language and Cognitive Processes, 23, 1133–1158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rayner, K., & Duffy, S. A. (1986). Lexical complexity and fixation times in reading: Effects of word frequency, verb complexity, and lexical ambiguity. Memory & Cognition, 14, 191–201. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schreuder, R., & Baayen, R. H. (1995). Modeling morphological processing. In L. B. Feldman (Ed.), Morphological aspects of language processing (pp. 131-154). Hillsdale, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  42. Schreuder, R., & Baayen, R. H. (1997). How complex simplex words can be. Journal of Memory and Language, 37, 118–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schriefers, H., Zwitserlood, P., & Roelofs, A. (1991). The identification of morphologically complex spoken words: Continuous processing or decomposition? Journal of Memory and Language, 30, 26–47. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shoolman, N., & Andrews, S. (2003). Racehorses, reindeer, and sparrows. In S. Kinoshita & S. J. Lupker (Eds.), Masked priming: The state of the art (pp. 241–278). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  45. Smolka, E., Gondan, M., & Rösler, F. (2015). Take a stand on understanding: Electrophysiological evidence for stem access in German complex verbs. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 62. PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. Smolka, E., Komlosi, S., & Rösler, F. (2009). When semantics means less than morphology: The processing of German prefixed verbs. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24, 337–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smolka, E., Preller, K. H., & Eulitz, C. (2014). “Verstehen” (“understand”) primes “stehen” (“stand”): Morphological structure overrides semantic compositionality in the lexical representation of German complex verbs. Journal of Memory and Language, 72, 16–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smolka, E., Zwitserlood, P., & Rösler, F. (2007). Stem access in regular and irregular inflection: Evidence from German participles. Journal of Memory and Language, 57, 325–347. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Staalesen, P. D. (2014). Undersøkelse av nynorsk som hovedmål (Rapport 2014-07). Oslo: Proba samfunnsanalyse.Google Scholar
  50. Taft, M. (1979). Recognition of affixed words and the word frequency effect. Memory & Cognition, 7, 263–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Taft, M. (2004). Morphological decomposition and the reverse base frequency effect. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 57A, 745–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Taft, M., & Forster, K. I. (1976). Lexical storage and retrieval of polymorphemic and polysyllabic words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 15, 607–620. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Taft, M., Huang, J., & Zhu, X. P. (1994). The influence of character frequency on word recognition processes in Chinese (Working paper, Advances in the Study of Chinese Language Processing). Taipei: Taiwan University, Department of Psychology.Google Scholar
  54. Venås, K. (1993). On the choice between two written standards in Norway. In E. H. Jahr (Ed.), Language conflict and language planning (pp. 263–278). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  55. Vikør, L. S. (1995). The Nordic languages: Their status and interrelations (Nordic Language Secretariat, publication no. 14). Oslo: Novus Press.Google Scholar
  56. Zwitserlood, P., Bolwiender, A., & Drews, E. (2007). Priming morphologically complex verbs by sentence contexts: Effects of semantic transparency and ambiguity. Language and Cognitive Processes, 20, 395–415. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Language and LiteratureNorwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)TrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Haskins LaboratoriesNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

Personalised recommendations