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Native and non-native processing of morphologically complex English words: testing the influence of derivational prefixes

Rehak, Kimberly Marie (2010) Native and non-native processing of morphologically complex English words: testing the influence of derivational prefixes. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This paper reports results of a replication and extension of Silva & Clahsen (2008). We used the masked priming paradigm (Forster & Davis, 1984) to measure differences in native and non-native processing of morphologically complex English words. Three groups of participants took part in these experiments: one native English speaker control group, and advanced adult learners of English as a second language (L2) with Spanish or Mandarin Chinese as their first language (L1).We compared the reaction times provided by lexical decision tasks to determine differences in the processing of five different morphemes. The critical items for our Experiments 1 - 3 were the same variables tested in Silva & Clahsen (2008): the regular past tense inflectional suffix -ed and the derivational suffixes -ness and -ity. We included two experiments to investigate the nature of native and non-native processing of the derivational prefixes, un- and re-.Silva & Clahsen (2008) assert that non-native speakers rely on the declarative memory system to process morphologically complex words. They found full priming for native English speakers for both inflectional and derivational suffixes; however, their non-native English speaking participants showed no priming effects for the inflectional suffix -ed and partial priming effects for the derivational suffixes -ness and -ity. Based on these results, Silva & Clahsen (2008) claim that L2 speakers process inflectional and derivational morphology differently. The results of this study are inconsistent with Silva & Clahsen (2008) for two of the affixes tested: the inflectional -ed and the derivational suffix -ity. Our Spanish L2 participants exhibited full priming effects for the inflectional -ed suffix, which suggests that the Spanish L2 participants are accessing the procedural memory system when processing English verbs in the simple past. Additionally, the Spanish L2 group in this study provided significantly faster reaction times for the derivational suffix, -ity than the Mandarin Chinese L2 group. Since -ity is a Latinate suffix and Spanish a Latin language, we believe our Spanish L2 participants are transferring knowledge of L1 morphology when processing morphologically complex words in their L2, which Silva & Clahsen (2008) claim is not a factor in second language processing.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rehak, Kimberly
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJuffs, Alan
Committee MemberMortensen, David
Committee MemberShirai, Yasuhiro
Date: 2 June 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 14 April 2010
Approval Date: 2 June 2010
Submission Date: 22 April 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: derivational prefix; derivational suffix; inflectional suffix; masked priming; dual-mechanism model of processing; L2 word processing
Other ID:, etd-04222010-135358
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:41
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:41


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