ERIC Number: EJ782827
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Feb
Reference Count: 0
Can Word Formation Be "Understood" or "Understanded" by Semantics Alone?
Gordon, Peter; Miozzo, Michele
Cognitive Psychology, v56 n1 p30-72 Feb 2008
Arguments concerning the relative role of semantic and grammatical factors in word formation have proven to be a wedge issue in current debates over the nature of linguistic representation and processing. In the present paper, we re-examine claims by Ramscar [Ramscar, M. (2002). The role of meaning in inflection: Why the past tense does not require a rule. "Cognitive Psychology," 45, 45-94.] that it is semantic rather than grammatical factors that influence the choice of regular or irregular past tense forms for English verbs. In Experiment 1, we first replicated Ramscar's (2002) experiment, which showed semantic influences on choice of past tense inflection. A novel verb, "splink," was introduced in a semantic context that was reminiscent of an existing regular or irregular rhyme verb: "blink" or "drink." Participants favored the past tense form ("splinked" or "splank") that matched that of the semantically similar verb. In Experiment 2, we introduced novel verbs in a context suggesting that they were grammatically derived from nouns (i.e., denominals). Some current symbolic processing models propose that regular past tense forms should be preferred for such forms. When Ramscar's (2002) original contexts for derivational verbs were re-tested in this condition, we replicated his failure to find a preference for regular past tense forms. However, when the contexts were modified to make the grammatical process more salient, we did find a preference for regular past tense forms, suggesting that the derivational status might have been ambiguous in the original materials. In Experiment 3, we tested whether acceptability ratings for regular or irregular past tense forms of grammatically derived verbs could be explained by semantic distance metrics or by ratings of noun-to-verb derivational status. Ratings of semantic distance and grammatical derivation were orthogonal factors in Experiment 3. Only derivational status predicted acceptability ratings for regular past tenseforms. Taken together, the present results suggest that semantic factors do not explain the regularization of irregular verbs in derivational contexts, although semantic factors can affect the choice of past tense forms in certain circumstances.
Descriptors: Semantics, Verbs, Morphemes, Grammar, Models, Psycholinguistics, Experiments, Language Research, Language Processing
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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