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Slide Slam S20 Sandbox Series

Family or foe: the morphological kinship between words

Slide Slam Session S, Friday, October 8, 2021, 12:00 - 2:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

Julia Cataldo Lopes1, Aniela Improta França1; 1Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)

Lexical access allows the immediate understanding and production of words online. Despite being a basic linguistic computation, there is a lot of heated theoretical dispute in this area. For example, literature presents competing views regarding how semantically opaque words are accessed and stored. This study will present an empirical research whose results shed light on: i) the way we access transparent and semantically opaque words, that is, if we activate whole words (Hay, Baayen, 2005) or if we assemble them by their morphemes (Stockall, Marantz, 2006); and ii) the method of representing words in the mind, that is, if words bearing a semantic relationship between them would be linked and words having a morphological relationship with each other would also be linked, but by a different process than the semantic one (Garcia, 2009; Dominguez, Vega, Barber, 2004). The Distributed Morphology (MD – Halle, Marantz, 1993) theory suggests that there are different lexical approaches, originated from psychologically different processes. However, how would the processing of words that bear a morphological relationship occur? Note that some of these words once had a semantic relation, but under the synchronous perspective have lost it. This is the case in “liquidação” (sale - meaning ‘with a cheap price’) and “líquido” (liquid), in Brazilian Portuguese. “Liquidação” (sale) derives diachronically from “líquido” (liquid), but nowadays Brazilian speakers seem to ignore this semantic relationship. This very specific type of morphological and semantic relationship between words has never been tested before in Brazilian Portuguese. In order to evaluate MD predictions, we will run a priming test with a lexical decision judgment (word/non-word). We will compare pairs of synchronically semantically unrelated (but morphologically linked) words -like “líquido”(liquid)/“liquidação”(sale) with pairs that maintain transparent compositional relationship -like “líquido”(líquido)/“liquidificar”(liquefy)- and, still, with pairs that maintain only semantic (and not morphological) relationship -like “líquido”(liquid)/“aquoso”(aqueous). For each of these three conditions, we selected stimuli with two different sizes/morphologic layers: for instance, “líquido-liquidificar”(liquid-liquefy), presented above, stand for the short condition of the compositional relationship, while “líquido-liquidificação”(liquid-liquefaction) stand for the long one. The results of a first behavioral pilot test confirm the MD hypothesis, evidencing i) a decomposicional course during processing, even for this kind of semantically opaque words; ii) new entries for words as “liquidificação” (sale) in the mental lexicon; and iii) different psychological processes for the morphologic and semantic routes: linguistic composition for the former and joint memory for the latter. Due to pandemic sanitary conditions, we have not yet been able to test the neurophysiological correlates to this computation (Bozic et at., 2007; Lavric, Clapp, Rastle, 2007; Moris et al., 2007; Petterson, Nestor, Rogers, 2007; Pylkkänen, 2019). As soon as it is possible, we will run an EGG test with the same design. We expect to find wider ERP amplitudes for the semantically opaque conditions and different latencies for each of the two-size-stimuli in morphological conditions (for both transparent and opaque ones) but not in the semantic-only one. These findings would ratify our conclusions for the pilot test.

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