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Lexical dynamics for low-frequency complex words: A regression study across tasks and modalities

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In this study we examine the word recognition process for low-frequency morphologically complex words. One goal of the study was to replicate and expand upon findings suggesting facilitative effects of morphological relatives of a target word. A second goal was to demonstrate the need for a reinterpretation of root and surface frequency effects, which traditionally have been taken as indicators of parsing-based and memory-driven processing, respectively. In a first study, we used the same stimuli across auditory and visual lexical decision and naming. Mixed-effects statistical modeling revealed that surface frequency was a robust predictor of RTs even in the very low end of the distribution, but root frequency was not. Also, the nature of the similarity between a target and its lexical competitors is crucial. Measures gauging the influence of morphological relatives of the target were facilitative, while measures gauging the influence of words related only in form were inhibitory. A second study analyzing data from the English Lexicon Project, for a large sample of words from across the full frequency range, supports these conclusions. An information-theoretical analysis of root and surface frequency explains why surface frequency must be the most important predictor, with only a marginal role for root frequency.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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