Do morphemes matter when reading compound words with transposed letters? Evidence from eye-tracking and event-related potentials

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The current study investigates the online processing consequences of encountering compound words with transposed letters (TLs), to determine if cross-morpheme TLs are more disruptive to reading than those within a single morpheme, as would be predicted by accounts of obligatory morpho-orthopgrahic decomposition. Two measures of online processing, eye movements and event-related potentials (ERPs), were collected in separate experiments. Participants read sentences containing correctly spelled compound words (cupcake), or compounds with TLs occurring either across morphemes (cucpake) or within one morpheme (cupacke). Results showed that between- and within-morpheme transpositions produced equal processing costs in both measures, in the form of longer reading times (Experiment 1) and a late posterior positivity (Experiment 2) that did not differ between conditions. Findings converge to suggest that within- and between-morpheme TLs are equally disruptive to recognition, providing evidence against obligatory morpho-orthographic processing and in favour of whole-word access of English compound words during sentence reading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1299-1319
Number of pages21
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 25 2016



  • ERPs
  • Eye movements
  • LPC/P600
  • compound words
  • morphological processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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