Processing and Representation of Morphological Complexity in Native Language Comprehension and Production

Chapter
Part of the Studies in Morphology book series (SUMO, volume 4)

Abstract

Psycholinguistic research has been concerned with the processing and representation of morphologically complex words for many decades. Leading questions are whether complex words are stored as wholes, or parsed during listening and reading – and assembled from their constituents during speaking. This chapter reviews psycholinguistic theories and data – mainly from English, Dutch and German – on the role of morphology in in language comprehension and production. Processing theories range from full storage independent of morphological complexity to full parsing of complex words. Parsing and composition – for which there is ample evidence from many languages – require morphemes to be stored, in addition to information as to how morphemes are combined, or to whole-word representations specifying the combination. Next to evidence for (de)composition, many studies indeed show that complex words as a whole play a role during processing, often demonstrated by effects of whole-word frequency. Processing models have been developed to account for such effects, taking into account differences between inflection, derivation and compounding – supported by neuroimaging studies – as well as the semantic transparency of the combination, often investigated with complex verbs and compounds. What is lacking, is an integrative model for the representation of complex words that accommodates the wealth of experimental data from both production and comprehension. This is where recent approaches from linguistic morphology may become relevant. The article concludes with a brief evaluation of proposals from construction morphology, and how they may accommodate what is known about online morphological representation and processing and in adult native speakers.

Keywords

Composition Language comprehension Language production Parsing Transparency Whole-word representation Word processing 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for PsychologyWestfälische Wilhelms-UniversitätMünsterGermany

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