Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



N Prep N constructions such as Sp. ‘mountain bike’ are very productive and frequent in Romance languages. They commonly have been classified as that show no orthographic union and exhibit an internal structure that resembles free syntactic structures, such as Sp. ‘book for children’. There is no consensus on how to best distinguish lexical from syntactic N Prep N constructions. The present paper presents an explorative eye-tracking study on N Prep N constructions, varying both lexical type (lexical vs. syntactic) and preposition across three languages, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The task of the eye-tracking study was a reading aloud paradigm of the constructions in sentence context. Constructions were fixated on less when more frequent, independent of lexical status. There was also modest evidence that a higher construction frequency afforded shorter total fixation durations, but only for lower deciles of the response distribution. The (construction-initial) head noun also received fewer fixations as construction frequency increased, and also when the head noun was more frequent. The second fixation durations on the head noun also revealed an effect of lexical status, with syntactic constructions receiving shorter fixations at the 5th and 7th deciles. The probability of a fixation on the preposition decreased with preposition frequency, but first fixations on the preposition increased with preposition frequency. The prepositions of Portuguese, the language with the richest inventory of prepositions, received more fixations than the prepositions of French and Spanish. The observed pattern of results is consistent with models of lexical processing in which reading is guided by knowledge of both higher-level constructions and knowledge of key constituents such as the head noun and the preposition.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Arnon, I. & Snider, N.
    (2010) More than words: Frequency effects for multi-word phrases. Journal of Memory and Language62. 67–82. 10.1016/j.jml.2009.09.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2009.09.005 [Google Scholar]
  2. Bates, E., & MacWhinney, B.
    (1989) Functionalism and the competition model. The crosslinguistic study of sentence processing, 3, 73–112.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Baayen, R. H., Chuang, Y. Y., Shafaei-Bajestan, E., & Blevins, J. P.
    (2019) The discriminative lexicon: A unified computational model for the lexicon and lexical processing in comprehension and production grounded not in (de) composition but in linear discriminative learning. Complexity. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/complexity/2019/4895891/
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Baayen, R. H., Dijkstra, T., & Schreuder, R.
    (1997) Singulars and plurals in Dutch: Evidence for a parallel dual route model. Journal of Memory and Language, 37, 94–117. 10.1006/jmla.1997.2509
    https://doi.org/10.1006/jmla.1997.2509 [Google Scholar]
  5. Baayen, R. H., Kuperman, V., & Bertram, R.
    (2010) Frequency effects in compound processing. Compounding, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins, 257–270. 10.1075/cilt.311.20baa
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.311.20baa [Google Scholar]
  6. Baayen, R. H., Hendrix, P., & Ramscar, M.
    (2013) Sidestepping the combinatorial explosion: An explanation on n-gram frequency effects based on naive discriminative learning. Language and Speech56, 329–347. 10.1177/0023830913484896
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0023830913484896 [Google Scholar]
  7. Baayen, R. H., Milin, P., & Ramscar, M.
    (2016) Frequency in lexical processing. Aphasiology, 30(11), 1174–1220. 10.1080/02687038.2016.1147767
    https://doi.org/10.1080/02687038.2016.1147767 [Google Scholar]
  8. Baayen, R. H., Milin, P., Đurđević, D. F., Hendrix, P., & Marelli, M.
    (2011) An amorphous model for morphological processing in visual comprehension based on naive discriminative learning. Psychological review, 118(3), 438. 10.1037/a0023851
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023851 [Google Scholar]
  9. Bisetto, A., & Scalise, S.
    (2005) The classification of compounds. Lingue e linguaggio, 4(2), 319–0.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Booij, G.
    (2010) Compound constructions: Schemas or analogy? A construction morphologist perspective. InSergio Scalise & Irene Vogel (eds.), Cross-disciplinary issues in compounding (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 311), 93–109. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/cilt.311.09boo
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.311.09boo [Google Scholar]
  11. (2018) The construction of words: Introduction and Overview. InGert Booij (ed.), The construction of words: Advances in construction morphology (Studies in Morphology 4), 3–18. Cham: Springer. 10.1007/978‑3‑319‑74394‑3_1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74394-3_1 [Google Scholar]
  12. Buenafuentes de la Mata, C.
    (2009) La formación de palabras compuestas: del latín al español. InDiachronic linguistics (pp.213–238). Documenta Universitaria.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. (2010) La composición sintagmática en español. San Millán de la Cogolla: Cilengua.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Bybee, J.
    (2010) Language, usage and cognition. Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511750526
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511750526 [Google Scholar]
  15. Chomsky, N.
    (1965) Aspects of the theory of syntax. MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Cutler, A.
    (1983) Lexical complexity and sentence processing. InFlores d’Arcais & Jarvella (eds). The Process of Language Understanding. Chichester: Wiley.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Ellis, N. C.
    (2002) Frequency Effects in Language Processing. InStudies in Second Language Acquisition24 (2). 143–188. 10.1017/S0272263102002024
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263102002024 [Google Scholar]
  18. Fasiolo, M., Goude, Y., Nedellec, R., & Wood, S. N.
    (2017) Fast calibrated additive quantile regression. URL: https://arxiv.org/abs/1707.03307
  19. Feldman, L. B., O’Connor, P. A., & del Prado Martín, F. M.
    (2009) Early morphological processing is morphosemantic and not simply morpho-orthographic: A violation of form-then-meaning accounts of word recognition. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 16(4), 684–691. 10.3758/PBR.16.4.684
    https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.16.4.684 [Google Scholar]
  20. Fradin, B.
    (2009) Romance: French. InRochelle Lieber & Pavol Štekauer (eds.), The Oxford handbook of compounding, 417–435. Oxford: University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Frost, R., Forster, K. & Deutsch, A.
    (1997) What can we learn from the morphology of Hebrew? A masked-priming investigation of morphological representation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition23(4). 829–856.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Gagné, C. L. & Shoben, E.J.
    (1997) Influence of thematic relations on the comprehension of modifier-noun combinations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition23(1). 71–87.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Gagné, C. L. & Spalding, T.L.
    (2009) Constituent integration during the processing of compound words: Does it involve the use of relational structures?Journal of Memory and Language60(1). 20–35. 10.1016/j.jml.2008.07.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2008.07.003 [Google Scholar]
  24. (2013) Conceptual composition: The role of relational competition in the comprehension of modifier-noun phrases and noun-noun compounds. InBrian H. Ross (ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Volume59), 97–130. Amsterdam: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Gagné, C. L. & Spalding, T.L.
    (2014) Conceptual composition: The role of relational competition in the comprehension of modifier-noun phrases and noun-noun compounds. Psychology of Learning and Motivation59. 97–130. 10.1016/B978‑0‑12‑407187‑2.00003‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-407187-2.00003-4 [Google Scholar]
  26. Gagné, C. L. & Spalding, T.L.
    (2014) Relation diversity and ease of processing for opaque and transparent English compounds. InRainer, F.; Dressler, W.; Gardini, F. and Luschützky, H. C. (Eds.). Morphology and Meaning: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 153–162. 10.1075/cilt.327.10gag
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.327.10gag [Google Scholar]
  27. Gahl, S., Garnsey, S. M.
    (2004) Knowledge of grammar, knowledge of usage: syntactic probabilities affect pronunciation variation. InLanguage80(4). 748–774. 10.1353/lan.2004.0185
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2004.0185 [Google Scholar]
  28. Geeraert, K., Newman, J., and Baayen, R. H.
    (2017) Idiom variation: Experimental data and a blueprint of a computational model. InChristiansen, M., and Arnon, I. (Eds.) More than Words: The Role of Multiword Sequences in Language Learning and Use. Special issue of Topics in Cognitive Science, 9, 653–669. 10.1111/tops.12263
    https://doi.org/10.1111/tops.12263 [Google Scholar]
  29. Gernsbacher, M. A.
    (1984) Resolving 20 years of inconsistent interactions between lexical familiarity and orthography, concreteness, and polysemy. Journal of experimental psychology: General, 113(2), 256. 10.1037/0096‑3445.113.2.256
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-3445.113.2.256 [Google Scholar]
  30. Giraudo, Hélène S. & Jonathan Grainger
    (2001) Priming complex words: Evidence for supralexical representation of morphology. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review8(1). 127–131. 10.3758/BF03196148
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196148 [Google Scholar]
  31. Girju, R., Moldovan, D., Tatu, M., & Antohe, D.
    (2005) On the semantics of noun compounds. Computer speech & language, 19(4), 479–496. 10.1016/j.csl.2005.02.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csl.2005.02.006 [Google Scholar]
  32. Guevara, E. R.
    (2012) Spanish compounds. Probus. International Journal of Latin and Romance Linguistics24(1). 175–195. 10.1515/probus‑2012‑0008
    https://doi.org/10.1515/probus-2012-0008 [Google Scholar]
  33. Hennecke, I.
    (2019) Internal constituent variability and semantic transparency in N Prep N constructions in Romance languages. InSabine Schulte im Walde & Eva Smolka (eds.), The role of constituents in multiword expressions: An interdisciplinary, cross-lingual perspective, 131–156. Berlin: Language Science Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Hennecke, I. & Baayen, H.
    (2017) A Quantitative Survey of N Prep N Constructions in Romance Languages and Prepositional Variability. Quaderns de Filologia: Estudis Lingüístics22. 129–146. 10.7203/qf.22.11305
    https://doi.org/10.7203/qf.22.11305 [Google Scholar]
  35. Jarema, G., Busson, C., Nikolova, R., Tsapkini, K., & Libben, G.
    (1999) Processing compounds: A cross-linguistic study. Brain and Language, 68(1–2), 362–369. 10.1006/brln.1999.2088
    https://doi.org/10.1006/brln.1999.2088 [Google Scholar]
  36. Juhasz, B. J., Starr, M. S., Inhoff, A. W., & Placke, L.
    (2003) The effects of morphology on the processing of compound words: Evidence from naming, lexical decisions and eye fixations. British Journal of Psychology, 94(2), 223–244. 10.1348/000712603321661903
    https://doi.org/10.1348/000712603321661903 [Google Scholar]
  37. Kornfeld, L. M.
    (2009) IE, romance: Spanish. InThe Oxford handbook of compounding.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Kuperman, V., Bertram, R. & Baayen, R. H.
    (2008) Morphological dynamics in compound processing, Language and Cognitive Processes, 23:7–8, 1089–1132. 10.1080/01690960802193688
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01690960802193688 [Google Scholar]
  39. Kuperman, V., Schreuder, R., Bertram, R., & Baayen, R. H.
    (2009) Reading polymorphemic Dutch compounds: Toward a multiple route model of lexical processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35(3), 876.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Lau, E., Rozanova, K., Phillips, C.
    (2007) Syntactic prediction and lexical frequency effects in sentence processing. University of Maryland Working Papers.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Libben, G., Gibson, M., Yoon, Y. B., & Sandra, D.
    (2003) Compound fracture: The role of semantic transparency and morphological headedness. Brain and language, 84(1), 50–64. 10.1016/S0093‑934X(02)00520‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0093-934X(02)00520-5 [Google Scholar]
  42. Libben, G., Goral, M., & Baayen, R. H.
    (2018) What does constituent priming mean in the investigation of compound processing?The Mental Lexicon, 13(2), 269–284. 10.1075/ml.00001.lib
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ml.00001.lib [Google Scholar]
  43. Maguire, Phil & Arthur Cater
    (2004) Is conceptual combination influenced by word order?42nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics. www.cs.nuim.ie/~pmaguire/publications/French2004.pdf (19Nov (2019) 10.3115/1219044.1219055
    https://doi.org/10.3115/1219044.1219055 [Google Scholar]
  44. Marelli, M., Crepaldi, D. & Luzzatti, C.
    (2009) Head position and the mental representation of nominal compounds. A constituent priming study in Italian. In: The Mental Lexicon4(3). 430–454. 10.1075/ml.4.3.05mar
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ml.4.3.05mar [Google Scholar]
  45. Masini, F.
    (2009) Phrasal lexemes, compounds and phrases: A constructionist perspective. Word structure, 2(2), 254–271. 10.3366/E1750124509000440
    https://doi.org/10.3366/E1750124509000440 [Google Scholar]
  46. Pierrehumbert, J. B.
    (2001) Exemplar dynamics: Word frequency. Frequency and the emergence of linguistic structure, 45, 137. 10.1075/tsl.45.08pie
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.45.08pie [Google Scholar]
  47. Pinker, S.
    (1991) Rules of language. Science, 253(5019), 530–535. 10.1126/science.1857983
    https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1857983 [Google Scholar]
  48. Pinker, S., & Ullman, M. T.
    (2002) The past and future of the past tense. Trends in cognitive sciences, 6(11), 456–463. 10.1016/S1364‑6613(02)01990‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6613(02)01990-3 [Google Scholar]
  49. Pylkkänen, L., Feintuch, S., Hopkins, E., & Marantz, A.
    (2004) Neural correlates of the effects of morphological family frequency and family size: an MEG study. Cognition, 91(3), B35–B45. 10.1016/j.cognition.2003.09.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2003.09.008 [Google Scholar]
  50. Rainer, F.
    (2016) Italian. In: O. Peter Müller, Ingeborg Ohnheiser, Susan Olsen und Franz Rainer (Hg.): Word Formation. An International Handbook of the Languages of Europe, Bd. 4. Berlin, Boston: Mouton de Gruyter, S.2712–2731.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. R Core Team
    R Core Team (2017) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL: https://www.R-project.org/
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Rastle, K., Davis, M. H., & New, B.
    (2004) The broth in my brother’s brothel: Morpho-orthographic segmentation in visual word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11(6), 1090–1098. 10.3758/BF03196742
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196742 [Google Scholar]
  53. Rio-Torto, G., & Ribeiro, S.
    (2009) Compounds in portuguese. Lingue e linguaggio, 8(2), 271–292.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. (2010) Unidades pluriverbais – Processamento e ensino. In: As interfaces da gramática, 151–165, Araraquara, SP: UNESP Editora.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. (2012) Portuguese compounds. Probus, 24(1), 119–145. 10.1515/probus‑2012‑0006
    https://doi.org/10.1515/probus-2012-0006 [Google Scholar]
  56. Rummelhart, D. E., McClelland, J. L., & PDP Research Group
    (1986) Parallel distributed processing. MIT Press, Cambridge. 10.7551/mitpress/5236.001.0001
  57. Shaoul, C., Westbury, C. F., & Baayen, H. R.
    (2013) The subjective frequency of word n-grams. Psihologija, 46(4), 497–537. 10.2298/PSI1304497S
    https://doi.org/10.2298/PSI1304497S [Google Scholar]
  58. Schmidtke, D., Kuperman, V., Gagné, C. L., & Spalding, T. L.
    (2016) Competition between conceptual relations affects compound recognition: the role of entropy. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 23(2), 556–570. 10.3758/s13423‑015‑0926‑0
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-015-0926-0 [Google Scholar]
  59. Schmidtke, D., Matsuki, K., & Kuperman, V.
    (2017) Surviving blind decomposition: A distributional analysis of the time-course of complex word recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(11), 1793–1820.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Shoben, E. J.
    (1991) Predicating and nonpredicating combinations. InP. J. Schwanenflugal (ed.), The psychology of word meanings, 117–135. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Snider, N. & Arnon, I.
    (2012) A unified lexicon and grammar? Compositional and non-compositional phrases in the lexicon. InDagmar Divjak & Stefan Th. Gries (eds.), Frequency effects in language representation, 127–164. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. 10.1515/9783110274073.127
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110274073.127 [Google Scholar]
  62. Solomyak, O., & Marantz, A.
    (2010) Evidence for early morphological decomposition in visual word recognition. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22(9), 2042–2057. 10.1162/jocn.2009.21296
    https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn.2009.21296 [Google Scholar]
  63. Štekauer, P.
    (2005) “Onomasiological Approach to Word-formation.” In: Pavel Štekauer and Rochelle Lieber (eds.), Handbook of Word-formation. Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/1‑4020‑3596‑9_9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3596-9_9 [Google Scholar]
  64. Spalding, T. L., Gagné, C. L., Mullaly, A., & Ji, H.
    (2010) Relation-based interpretation of noun-noun phrases: A new theoretical approach. New impulses in word-formation, 283–315.
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Spalding, Thomas L. & Christina L. Gagné
    (2011) Relation priming in established compounds: Facilitation?Memory & Cognition39(8). 1472–1486. 10.3758/s13421‑011‑0112‑1
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-011-0112-1 [Google Scholar]
  66. Spalding, T. L. & Gagné, C. L.
    (2014) Relational diversity affects ease of processing even for opaque English compounds. The Mental Lexicon, 9, 48–66. 10.1075/ml.9.1.03spa
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ml.9.1.03spa [Google Scholar]
  67. Taft, M., & Forster, K. I.
    (1976) Lexical storage and retrieval of polymorphemic and polysyllabic words. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior, 15(6), 607–620. 10.1016/0022‑5371(76)90054‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-5371(76)90054-2 [Google Scholar]
  68. Tremblay, A., and Baayen, R. H.
    (2010) Holistic processing of regular four-word sequences: A behavioral and ERP study of the effects of structure, frequency, and probability on immediate free recall. InD. Wood, Perspectives on formulaic language: Acquisition and communication. London: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 151–173.
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Tremblay, A., Derwing, B., Libben, G., & Westbury, C.
    (2011) Processing advantages of lexical bundles: Evidence from self-paced reading and sentence recall tasks. Language learning, 61(2), 569–613. 10.1111/j.1467‑9922.2010.00622.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2010.00622.x [Google Scholar]
  70. Ullman, M. T.
    (2001) The declarative/procedural model of lexicon and grammar. Journal of psycholinguistic research, 30(1), 37–69. 10.1023/A:1005204207369
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005204207369 [Google Scholar]
  71. (2004) Contributions of memory circuits to language: The declarative/procedural model. Cognition, 92(1–2), 231–270. 10.1016/j.cognition.2003.10.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2003.10.008 [Google Scholar]
  72. Val Àlvaro, J. F.
    (1999) La composición. InI. Bosque & V. Demonte (Eds.), Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española. Madrid: Espasa, 757–4841.
    [Google Scholar]
  73. Villoing, F.
    (2012) French compounds. Probus, 24(1), 29–60. 10.1515/probus‑2012‑0003
    https://doi.org/10.1515/probus-2012-0003 [Google Scholar]
  74. Wood S.
    (2017) Generalized Additive Models: An Introduction with R, 2nd edition. Chapman and Hall/CRC. 10.1201/9781315370279
    https://doi.org/10.1201/9781315370279 [Google Scholar]
  75. Zwitserlood, P.
    (2018) Processing and representation of morphological complexity in native language comprehension and production. InGeert Booij (ed.), The construction of words: Advances in construction morphology (Studies in Morphology 4), 583–602. Cham: Springer. 10.1007/978‑3‑319‑74394‑3_20
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74394-3_20 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): eye-tracking; N preposition N construction; Romance; syntagmatic compounds
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error