The dynamics of morphological processing in developing readers: A cross-linguistic masked priming study

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 208, Article 105140.


Empirical evidence from masked priming research shows that skilled readers can rapidly identify morphological structure in written language. However, comparatively little is known about how and when this skill is acquired in children. The current work investigated the developmental trajectory of morphological processing in a 2-year longitudinal study involving two large cohorts of German and French primary school children. The masked priming paradigm was used within an experimental design that allowed us to dissociate effects of (a) nonmorphological embedded word activation, (b) morpho-orthographic decomposition, and (c) morpho-semantics. Four priming conditions were used: affixed word (farmer-FARM), affixed nonword (farmity-FARM), nonaffixed nonword (farmald-FARM), and unrelated control (workald-FARM). The results revealed robust embedded word priming effects across both languages. However, morpho-orthographic and morpho-semantic effects were evident only in the French sample. These findings are discussed in the context of a theoretical framework that specifies the distinct roles played by embedded words and affixes, their distinct developmental trajectories, and how the intrinsic linguistic properties of a given language may affect morphological processing.

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 208, Article 105140