The time-course of morphological constraints: Evidence from eye-movements during reading

Ian Cunnings, Harald Clahsen

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Lexical compounds in English are constrained in that the non-head noun can be an irregular but not a regular plural (e.g. mice eater vs. *rats eater), a contrast that has been argued to derive from a morphological constraint on modifiers inside compounds. In addition, bare nouns are preferred over plural forms inside compounds (e.g. mouse eater vs. mice eater), a contrast that has been ascribed to the semantics of compounds. Measuring eye-movements during reading, this study examined how morphological and semantic information become available over time during the processing of a compound. We found that the morphological constraint affected both early and late eye-movement measures, whereas the semantic constraint for singular non-heads only affected late measures of processing. These results indicate that morphological information becomes available earlier than semantic information during the processing of compounds. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-494
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007

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