The role of embedded words and morphemes in reading

In D. Crepaldi (Ed.), Linguistic morphology in the mind and brain (pp. 26–49). Routledge.


This chapter describes a model that accounts for various phenomena related to morphological processing in skilled reading and reading acquisition. The model implements a non-morphological mechanism of embedded word activation and a morphological affix activation mechanism associated with the principle of morpho-orthographic full decomposition. It builds on two streams of research that have emerged from the field of visual word recognition. The first stream centres on the examination of morphologically complex words like farmer and presents evidence for a mechanism by which skilled readers decompose complex words into morphemic subunits (farm + er). The second stream focuses on the investigation of complex nonwords like farmity and speaks in favour of a non-morphological mechanism by which embedded words (farm) are activated by mapping letters onto whole-word representations. Our model combines affix and embedded word activation in the form of two parallel mechanisms for associating orthography with meaning during reading. The combination of these two mechanisms is further supported by findings from younger readers, showing that embedded word activation and morpho-orthographic processing are acquired at different developmental stages. Embedded word activation develops early, whereas the ability to decompose words into morphemes is a comparatively late acquired milestone.

In D. Crepaldi (Ed.), Linguistic morphology in the mind and brain (pp. 26–49). Routledge