Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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Most dictionary definitions for the term characterize it as a word that itself contains two or more words. Thus, a compound word such as is composed of the constituent words and . In this report, we present evidence that compound words such as might not contain the words and , but rather positionally bound compound constituents (e.g., and ) that are distinct and often in competition with their whole word counterparts. This conceptualization has significant methodological consequences: it calls into question the assumption that, in a traditional visual constituent priming paradigm, the participant can be said to be presented with constituents as primes. We claim that they are not presented with constituents. Rather, they are presented with competing free-standing words. We present evidence for the processing of Hebrew compound words that supports this perspective by revealing that, counter-intuitively, prime constituent frequency has an attenuating effect on constituent priming. We relate our findings to previous findings in the study of German compound processing to show that the effect that we report is fundamentally morphological rather than positional or visual in nature. In contrast to German in which compounds are always head-final morphologically, Hebrew compounds are always head initial. In addition, whereas German compounds are written as single words, Hebrew compounds are always written with spaces between constituents. Thus, the commonality of patterning across German and Hebrew is independent of visual form and constituent ordering, revealing, as we claim, core features of the constituent priming paradigm and compound processing.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): compounds; constituent priming; frequency; Hebrew; lexical decision; morphology
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