Accentuate the Positive: Semantic Access in English Compounds
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The present study supplements research on semantic effects in word processing by focusing on the role that meanings of morphemes play in recognition of complex words. We present an overview of behavioral effects of six semantic properties characterizing the emotional and sensory connotations of English compounds and their morphemes, as well as their semantic richness. Semantics of compounds affected latencies to those compounds, and semantics of morphemes affected latencies to those morphemes presented as isolated words. Yet semantics of morphemes had little bearing on recognition of compounds, with the exception of longer recognition times for compounds with emotionally negative morphemes (e.g., seasick). We interpret the data as evidence against obligatory decomposition and dual-route accounts of morphological processing and in favor of the naive discriminative learning account that posits independent, morphologically unmediated, and simultaneous access to all meanings activated by orthographic cues in the visual input. We discuss selectivity and division of attention as driving forces in complex word recognition.
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