Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Eye Movements during the Reading of Compound Words and the Influence of Lexeme Meaning

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Eye Movements during the Reading of Compound Words and the Influence of Lexeme Meaning

Article excerpt

We examined the use of lexeme meaning during the processing of spatially unified bilexemic compound words by manipulating both the location and the word frequency of the lexeme that primarily defined the meaning of a compound (i.e., the dominant lexeme). The semantically dominant and nondominant lexemes occupied either the beginning or the ending compound word location, and the beginning and ending lexemes could be either high- or low-frequency words. Three tasks were used-lexical decision, naming, and sentence reading-all of which focused on the effects of lexeme frequency as a function of lexeme dominance. The results revealed a larger word frequency effect for the dominant lexeme in all three tasks. Eye movements during sentence reading further revealed larger word frequency effects for the dominant lexeme via several oculomotor motor measures, including the duration of the first fixation on a compound word. These findings favor theoretical conceptions in which the use of lexeme meaning is an integral part of the compound recognition process.

Compound words are formed by combining free lexemes into a single lexicalized expression. Few rules govern this lexical-conceptual "evolution." In English, lexicographers find new compounds by examining popular usage-that is, words used together relatively often to denote a specific concept. Most compounds become "solid"-that is, are written as spatially unified expressions-but others are written with a blank space between the lexeme constituents or are hyphenated. One central question in the study of compound recognition has been whether the spatial and conceptual unification of solid compounds is reversed during the recognition process-that is, whether the constituents of the compound are discerned and accessed before the overall word is recognized. The bulk of the available empirical evidence indicates that such decomposition indeed takes place.

Experimental effects of compound decomposition have been obtained when either individually presented compound words or words related to compound word primes were to be named or classified (see, e.g., Coolen, van Jaarsveld, & Schreuder, 1991, 1993; Inhoff & Topolski, 1994; Laudanna, Badecker, & Caramazza, 1989; Libben, Denying, & de Almeida, 1999; Lima & Pollatsek, 1983; Prinzmetal, 1990; Prinzmetal, Hoffinan, & Vest, 1991; Sandra, 1990; Shillcock, 1990; Taft, 1985; Taft & Forster, 1976; van Jaarsveld & Rattink, 1988;Zwitserlood, 1994).Decompositional effects have also been obtained when compound words were viewed during sentence reading (Andrews, Miller, & Rayner, 2004; Bertram & Hyönä, 2003; Hyönä & Pollatsek, 1998; Inhoff, Briihl, & Schwartz, 19%; Inhoff, Radach, & Heller, 2000; Juhasz, 2007; Juhasz, Inhoff, & Rayner, 2005; Juhasz, Starr, Inhoff, & Placke, 2003; Pollatsek, Hyönä, & Bertram, 2000). In Hyönä and Pollatsek's influential study, readers spent less time viewing spatially unified Finnish compounds with high-frequency beginning lexemes than viewing matched compounds with low-frequency beginning lexemes. The frequency of the beginning lexeme influenced compound reading at a relatively early stage; that is, the first-fixation duration was shorter when a solid compound contained a high-frequency beginning lexeme. A follow-up study, Pollatsek et al. (2000), further showed that both the word frequency of the second lexeme and the frequency of the full compound word influenced compound viewing and that these two frequency effects emerged at approximately the same time, after the first fixation on a compound word. Readers thus discern the constituent lexemes of spatially unified long Finnish compound words and use these lexemes progressively in a time-locked manner.

Decomposition of compound words may assist the accessing of orthographic word forms. The orthographic form of a constituent lexeme is less complex and is generally much more common and familiar than the orthographic form of the full compound. …

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