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Title: Lexical gaps and morphological complexity : the role of intermediate derivational steps
Author: Schuster, Swetlana
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 8312
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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In this thesis, we present a multi-method investigation of how lexical gaps, defined here as morphologically and phonologically viable formations, are processed in derivational chains. Due to a focus on the processing of single-affixed words in the experimental literature, little is known about the role of intermediate steps of derivation during morphological decomposition. In a series of four behavioural experiments, we show that while all morphologically well-formed items activate a base word that is two derivational steps away, speakers are sensitive to the internal composition of visually matched novel forms. Items like *Spitzung (spitz > spitzen > *Spitzung) primed their stem more than pseudowords containing two lexical gaps in their derivational chain such as hübsch > *hübschen > *Hübschung. Similar patterns emerged in an ERP (Event-related potentials) experiment using cross-modal priming: novel forms in the *Spitzung set displayed significantly stronger attenuation of the N400 response to the target spitz than items for which the intermediate position in the derivational chain is a lexical gap such as *Hübschung, thereby demonstrating a stronger link between pairs without a lexical gap in the intermediate position. Building on previous neuroimaging research on the processing of derivational depth in morphological complexity (cf. Meinzer et al., 2009; Pliatsikas et al., 2014), we subsequently turned to a functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of the neural correlates of morphological complexity processing with lexical gaps. Both sets of pseudowords showed greater activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus relative to existing complex words as an index of prolonged lexical search. A direct comparison between the two sets of novel forms revealed stronger activation in the right superior parietal lobule and precuneus for pseudowords with lexical gaps in the intermediate position. These findings lend support to the idea that morphological decomposition involves the inspection of intermediate levels of morphological composition as a stepwise procedure that is informed by the structural rules of the language.
Supervisor: Lahiri, Aditi Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available