Linguistic Perspectives on Morphological Processing
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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In alphabetic writing systems, the most consistent correspondences hold between written and spoken segments. Although English spelling uses the Roman alphabet and is thus largely phonographic, it also encodes non-phonological distinctions such as those among homophonic words (e.g., pair, pare, pear). We review evidence that English spelling is to some extent morphographic at the level of suffixes: some suffixes (e.g. -s and -ed) have a single constant spelling (‹-s› and ‹ed›), despite the fact that they vary in phonological realization (-s is realized as [z], [s], or [əz], depending on the preceding segment); while other suffixes (e.g. ‑ic) are spelled differently from homophonous word-final phonological sequences (e.g. ‹relic› vs. ‹relick›). We explore the implications of our research for psycholinguistic findings on morphological processing of written English, with a special focus on ‘affix stripping’ processes. Psycholinguistic research has largely assumed the straightforward linguistic validity of morphographic spelling, without appreciating either its typologically unusual nature or the subtle and complex relation that it bears to morphology, phonology, and semantics.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): affix stripping; derivation; inflection; morphographic spelling; writing systems
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