The role of syllables and morphemes in silent reading: An eye-tracking study

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1–21.


German skilled readers have been found to engage in morphological and syllable-based processing in visual word recognition. However, the relative reliance on syllables and morphemes in reading multi-syllabic complex words is still unresolved. The present study aimed to unveil which of these sub-lexical units are the preferred units of reading by employing eye-tracking technology. Participants silently read sentences while their eye movements were recorded. Words were visually marked by the use of color alternation (Experiment 1) or hyphenation (Experiment 2), either at syllable boundary (e.g., Kir-schen), at morpheme boundary (e.g., Kirsch-en) or within the units themselves (e.g., Ki-rschen). A control condition without disruptions was used as a baseline (e.g., Kirschen). The results of Experiment 1 showed that eye-movements were not modulated by color alternations. The results of Experiment 2 indicated that hyphens disrupting syllables had a larger inhibitory effect on reading times than hyphens disrupting morphemes, suggesting that eye-movements in German skilled readers are more influenced by syllabic than morphological structure.

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1–21