University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


In this paper we address the theoretical debate about the representation and processing of derived words, presenting the results of a lexical decision task experiment aiming to investigate the visual recognition of Italian prefixed and suffixed words and nonwords. The study was specifically designed to test hypotheses stemming from the manipulation of two linguistic factors: (1) linearity (i.e., sequential order of morphemes), and (2) various degrees of complexity of the internal structure of particular types of Italian derived words.

Our findings show that suffixed and prefixed words and nonwords are not generally processed in the same way because they are not a homogenous set. Prefixes and suffixes instead engender different processing strategies, as has also been suggested by Cole et al. (1989) and Hay (2001). Moreover our data reveal that derived words are not necessarily processed more quickly or slowly than simple words (Bertram et al., 2000), but that their processing varies according to the nature of the affixes, the order in which they appear, and the information encoded in the affix.