Teasing apart Syntactic Category vs. Argument Structure Information in Deverbal Word Formation: a comparative psycholinguistic study.
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Deverbal word formation is subject to two distinct types of constraints, those concerning the syntactic category of the base (categorial constraints) and those relating to the thematic properties of the verb (thematic constraints). For instance, -able suffixation involves a transitive verb with argument structure <Agent<Theme>>, as in to train > trainable. Violation of these constraints results in the creation of pseudo-words with categorial (e.g. riverable) or thematic violations (e.g. arrivable). The study discusses psycholinguistic experiments involving these types of deverbal pseudo-words, in Greek and English, two languages with morphologically distinct properties. Greek has a rich derivational system with a variety of deverbal formations, which follow strong constraints, in the sense that most suffixes that participate in deverbal word formation lack the polysemy that allows them to attach to other-than-verbal bases. English, on the other hand, demonstrates an equally rich derivational system, but it differs in two crucial ways: (a) there is significant affix homophony (e.g. -er is a nominalizer if attached to verbal stems, or forms the comparative if attached to adjectives), (b) it is extremely permissive in allowing zero-derived verbs (to fax). In an off-line and two on-line lexical decision tasks we investigated whether categorial and thematic constraints are treated in the same way by speakers of both languages. Results showed that speakers of both languages differentiated between pseudo-words that violate these two types of constraints both when it comes to acceptance rates and processing time. Taking together results from both languages, we make claims about the structured mental representation of deverbal derivatives and the fact that their various properties can be accessed via distinct operations and at distinct points of time. Implications for the psycholinguistic theory of lexical access and the morphological theory of word formation are also discussed.
AuthorsSTOCKALL, L; Manouilidou, C
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