Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

The Processing of Singular and Plural Nouns in English, French, and Dutch: New Insights from Megastudies

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

The Processing of Singular and Plural Nouns in English, French, and Dutch: New Insights from Megastudies

Article excerpt

Understanding visual word recognition is an important topic in psycholinguistics. While there is general consensus that monomorphemic words are stored in the mental lexicon, there is an ongoing debate about the way in which morphologically complex words are processed. There are three main classes of models: full listing models (Butterworth, 1983), full parsing models (Clahsen, 1999; Taft, 2004), and dual-route models (Schreuder & Baayen, 1995).

Full listing models (Butterworth, 1983; Manelis & Tharp, 1977) posit that all words are stored in the mental lexicon, even morphologically complex words. According to these models, there is an independent lexical representation for each word and this implies that each inflected or derived word is represented globally and independently without any morphemic decomposition.

Full parsing models state that all morphologically complex words are decomposed. An interesting model of full parsing is the interactive-activation model of Taft (1994, 2004). The main idea is that polymorphemic words are always decomposed into individual morphemes and are recognised via the representation of their stem. More precisely, this model postulates two stages: an early and obligatory stage of morpheme decomposition, and a late processing stage in which the functional information associated with the stem representation is recombined with the functional information associated with the separately accessed suffix representation. It can be noted that recombination on the basis of functional information occurs for inflected words but not for derived words. An important feature of the late stage of recombination is that its duration is not constant: The decision that the affix can be combined with the stem takes more or less time depending on how easy it is to establish that they go together.

Dual-route models postulate that complex forms can be processed both as whole words and through morphological decomposition. One such model is the Augmented Addressed Morphology model (AAM, Caramazza, Laudanna, & Romani, 1988), according to which words are handled primarily by the direct route and the parsing route is a backup option for very rare or novel morphologically complex words. Another dual-route model is that of Schreuder and Baayen (1995), which has been applied to different languages such as Italian (Baayen, Burani & Schreuder, 1996) and Dutch (Baayen, Dijkstra & Schreuder, 1997). This model is named the Parallel Dual-Route model (PDR). In this model, storage and decomposition routes are activated in parallel, and their relative contributions to the recognition of morphologically complex words depend on a number of factors. Bertram, Schreuder, and Baayen (2000) proposed three main factors: Word formation type, suffix productivity, and affixal homonymy. Word formation type refers to the meaning relationship between the morphologically complex word and the base word (this is a continuum going from inflections that do not alter the meaning of the stem to derivations that have a different meaning than the stem word). The productivity of a suffix refers to the ease with which new words can be created by adding the suffix. Finally, the third factor (affixal homonymy) distinguishes affixes that are used in only one form of derivation/inflection, versus affixes that are used in two or more types of derivation/inflection. According to Bertram et al. (2000), the contribution of the decomposition route is strongest for words with productive meaning-invariant affixes that do not have productive semantic rival homonyms. In contrast, whole-word recognition is more likely for affixes that are not productive or that have a more frequent rival with a different semantic function.

Connectionist models have also been proposed to account for plural processing. These models do not make a difference between regular words (which can be processed by rules) and exceptions. The weight of the connections between the different units can be modified and these changes allow the network to acquire both rules and exceptions. …

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