Volume 13, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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We report on a visual masked priming experiment designed to explore the role of morphology in Maltese visual word recognition. In a lexical decision task, subjects were faster to judge Maltese words of Semitic origin that were primed by triconsonantal letter-strings corresponding to their root-morphemes. In contrast, they were no faster to judge Maltese words of non-Semitic origin that were primed by an equivalent, but non-morphemic, set of three consonant letters, suggesting that morphological overlap, rather than simple form overlap, drives this facilitatory effect. Maltese is unique among the Semitic languages for its orthography: Maltese alone uses the Latin alphabet and requires that all vowels are written, making such triconsonantal strings illegal non-words to which Maltese readers are never exposed, as opposed to other Semitic languages such as Hebrew in which triconsonantal strings often correspond to real words. Under a decomposition-based account of morphological processing, we interpret these results as suggesting that across reading experience Maltese readers have abstracted out and stored root-morphemes for Semitic-origin words lexically, such that these morphemic representations can be activated by exposure to root-letters in isolation and thus prime morphological derivatives.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): lexical access; Maltese; root and pattern morphology; Semitic; visual masked priming
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