Root transparency and the morphology-meaning interface

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The paper concerns the structural factor of &#8216;root transparency&#8217; in relation to the morphology-meaning interface in the mental lexicon of Hebrew. Semitic root structure was analyzed by comparing responses of native speakers of Hebrew on a set of written tasks. Target items included both nouns derived from transparent full triconsonantal roots (e.g. <i>migdal</i> &#8220;tower&#8221; from the root <i>g-d-l</i>) and nouns derived from more opaque defective biconsonantal roots (e.g. <i>taxazit</i> &#8220;forecast&#8221; from the root <i>x-z-y)</i>. Responses to items based on full roots demonstrated that they were across-the-board more accessible and easier to process than their defective counterparts. Moreover, the difference between performance on items derived from full compared with defective roots was found to interface with phonology, semantics, and syntax, as well as with familiarity/frequency. These results indicate that root transparency plays an important and pervasive role in the mental lexicon of Hebrew.


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