The processing of interfixed German compounds

  • Wolfgang U. Dressler
  • Gary Libben
  • Jacqueline Stark
  • Christiane Pons
  • Gonia Jarema
Part of the Yearbook of Morphology book series (YOMO)


This postulate by Goethe (*1749), the first protagonist of a new discipline of morphology (albeit first only within biology), confronts us with the main problem of processing studies of morphology: Are morphological constructions processed as wholes or with regard to their parts or, if both, under which conditions? This question has been of central concern in the psycholinguistic literature on lexical processing over the past quarter century. The debate in this area was initiated by the provocative claim put forward by Taft and Forster (1975; 1976) that multimorphemic words are represented in the mental lexicon in terms of their constituents and that multimorphemic word recognition routinely involves a morphological decomposition procedure. Subsequent experimentation, however, has pointed to the view that neither this strong position nor the strong contrary position advocated by Butterworth (1983) accounts for the performance of language users across languages, task types, and stimulus categories (see McQueen and Cutler (1998) for a recent review). Even within individual categories of morphological construction, experimental results have led to a rather complex view of the role of morphology in lexical processing. Compound word processing, for example, has been shown to provide evidence for both whole word representation and constituent activation. In general, semantically transparent compounds show constituent activation, whereas semantically opaque compounds show greater evidence of whole word activation (Libben 1998; Sandra 1990; Zwitserlood 1994). Recent work by Libben, Derwing and de Almeida (1999) has also suggested that the processing of compounds may involve the creation of multiple representations that are simultaneously computed and evaluated. Libben et al. (1999) claim that the processing of compounds is not guided by a principle of parsing efficiency but rather by a mechanism that uncovers the maximum number of morphemes within a multimorphemic string.


Stimulus Category Inflectional Form Citation Form Simple Concatenation Feminine Noun 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang U. Dressler
    • 1
    • 5
  • Gary Libben
    • 2
    • 6
  • Jacqueline Stark
    • 3
    • 7
  • Christiane Pons
    • 4
    • 7
  • Gonia Jarema
    • 4
    • 8
  1. 1.University of Vienna and the Austrian AcademyAustria
  2. 2.University of AlbertaCanada
  3. 3.Austrian Academy of SciencesAustria
  4. 4.University of Montréal and Centre Universitaire of Sciences de Gériatrie de MontréalCanada
  5. 5.Institut für SprachwissenschaftUniversität WienWienAustria
  6. 6.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  7. 7.Kommission für LinguistikAustrian Academy of SciencesWienAustria
  8. 8.Centre Universitaire de Gériatrie de MontréalMontréalCanada

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