MEG masked priming evidence for form-based decomposition of irregular verbs

Joseph Fruchter, Linnaea Stockall, Alec Marantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

To what extent does morphological structure play a role in early processing of visually presented English past tense verbs? Previous masked priming studies have demonstrated effects of obligatory form-based decomposition for genuinely affixed words (teacher-TEACH) and pseudo-affixed words (corner-CORN), but not for orthographic controls (brothel-BROTH). Additionally, MEG single word reading studies have demonstrated that the transition probability from stem to affix (in genuinely affixed words) modulates an early evoked response known as the M170; parallel findings have been shown for the transition probability from stem to pseudo-affix (in pseudo-affixed words). Here, utilizing the M170 as a neural index of visual form-based morphological decomposition, we ask whether the M170 demonstrates masked morphological priming effects for irregular past tense verbs (following a previous study which obtained behavioral masked priming effects for irregulars). Dual mechanism theories of the English past tense predict a rule-based decomposition for regulars but not for irregulars, while certain single mechanism theories predict rule-based decomposition even for irregulars. MEG data was recorded for 16 subjects performing a visual masked priming lexical decision task. Using a functional region of interest (fROI) defined on the basis of repetition priming and regular morphological priming effects within the left fusiform and inferior temporal regions, we found that activity in this fROI was modulated by the masked priming manipulation for irregular verbs, during the time window of the M170. We also found effects of the scores generated by the learning model of Albright and Hayes (2003) on the degree of priming for irregular verbs. The results favor a single mechanism account of the English past tense, in which even irregulars are decomposed into stems and affixes prior to lexical access, as opposed to a dual mechanism model, in which irregulars are recognized as whole forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

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