Jun 22 – 24, 2017
SISSA Main Campus
Europe/Rome timezone

Semantic transparency affects morphological priming…eventually

Jun 22, 2017, 3:20 PM
2h 10m
Lecture Hall Paolo Budinich (SISSA Main Campus)

Lecture Hall Paolo Budinich

SISSA Main Campus

via Bonomea 265, 34136, Trieste
Poster Freely Contributed Paper Poster 1


Vera Heyer (University of Braunschweig)


Despite decades of psycholinguistic research on semantic transparency, researchers still disagree about whether morpho-semantic information is used in the earliest processing stages, resulting in stronger priming effects for transparent (*walker*) than for opaque (*corner*) forms (Beyersmann et al., 2015; Feldman et al., 2015). In two masked priming studies with English -*ness* and Russian -*ost'* nominalisations, we investigated how morphological priming effects are modulated by semantic transparency at short and long prime durations. In contrast to previous research, we used a transparency scale within our items rather than splitting them into dichotomous groups of transparent and opaque forms. Forty-nine English and 60 Russian native speakers made lexical decisions for targets preceded by derived versus unrelated primes. The semantic transparency of the derived forms was established in a pretest, ranging from opaque (*business* – *busy*; *milost'* ‘your highness’ – *milyj* ‘nice’) to transparent (*paleness* – *pale*; *gordost'* ‘pride’ – *gordyj* ‘proud’). Participants were assigned to one of two prime durations (~35 vs. ~70 ms). Linear mixed-effects models revealed that semantic transparency modulated priming effects at the long prime duration in both English (t=2.45) and Russian (t=2.40), with priming effects increasing with transparency. At the short prime duration, however, priming effects were constant across the transparency scale (English: t=-1.22; Russian: t=-0.09). Three-way interactions showed that the effects in the two prime durations differed statistically (English: t=-2.10; Russian: t=-1.69). Our results provide support for models that posit an initial phase of ‘semantically blind’ affix-stripping, with semantic transparency information reducing the facilitation effects for opaque forms only when there is sufficient time to process the prime. Crucially, we found this effect using a scale rather than distinct item sets, which indicates that the effect of semantic transparency is gradual rather than categorical.

Primary author

Vera Heyer (University of Braunschweig)

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