Semantic similarity influences early morphological priming in Serbian: A challenge to form-then-meaning accounts of word recognition


  • Feldman Laurie Beth
  • Kostic Aleksandar
  • Gvozdenovic Vasilije
  • O'Connor Patrick A.
  • Martin Fermin Moscoso del Prado

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Semantically similar (e.g., coolant-COOL) primes have produced greater facilitation than have form-similar but semantically dissimilar (e.g., rampant-RAMP) primes when English words have appeared in the forward-masked primed lexical decision task (Feldman, O'Connor, & Moscoso del Prado Martin, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 16: 684-691, 2009). These results challenge claims that form-based, semantically blind activation underlies early morphological facilitation. Some have argued that the English materials in previous studies were not ideally constructed, insofar as the types of spelling changes to affixed stems differed in the semantically similar and dissimilar pairs. The present study exploited Serbian's bialphabetism, rich morphology, and homographic (form-identical) stems to replicate early effects of semantic similarity. Furthermore, it incorporated within-target manipulations of prime type and of alphabet, such that the alphabets of the prime-target pairs matched in Experiment 1a and alternated in Experiment 1b. Importantly, no letter or phoneme changes occurred between the stems of the primes and targets. These results revealed significant effects of semantic similarity that are comparable with and without alphabet alternation. The semantic effects in Serbian replicated almost exactly those in English (Feldman et al., Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 16: 684-691, 2009), which suggests that even early in the course of processing, morphemes are units of meaning as well as of form. The results failed to support models of lexical processing that postulate sequential access, first to the morphological form, and then to the semantic aspects of words.

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