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Morphological decomposition in Bantu: a masked priming study on Setswana prefixation

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journal contribution
posted on 10.02.2020 by Laura Anna Ciaccio, Naledi Kgolo, Harald Clahsen

African languages have rarely been the subject of psycholinguistic experimentation. The current study employs a masked visual priming experiment to investigate morphological processing in a Bantu language, Setswana. Our study takes advantage of the rich system of prefixes in Bantu languages, which offers the opportunity of testing morphological priming effects from prefixed inflected words and directly comparing them to priming effects from prefixed derived words on the same targets. We found significant priming effects of similar magnitude for both prefixed inflected and derived word forms, which were clearly dissociable from prime-target relatedness in both meaning and (orthographic) form. These findings provide support for a (possibly universal) mechanism of morphological decomposition applied during early visual word recognition that segments both (prefixed) inflected and derived word forms into their morphological constituents.


This work was supported by an Alexander-von-Humboldt-Professorship awarded to Harald Clahsen, by the Research Focus “Cognitive Sciences” of the University of Potsdam, and by the Research Fund of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Botswana.