processing english compounds in the first and second language the influence of the middle morpheme n.
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指導教授:鍾榮富教授 Reporter:NA1C0008 陳慧齡

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Processing English Compounds in the First and Second Language: The Influence of the Middle Morpheme. 指導教授:鍾榮富教授 Reporter:NA1C0008 陳慧齡. Introduction . A compound is made up of two or more words concatenated to form another word e.g., pan and cake→pancake

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processing english compounds in the first and second language the influence of the middle morpheme

Processing English Compounds in the Firstand Second Language: The Influenceof the Middle Morpheme



  • A compound is made up of two or more words concatenated to form another word
    • e.g., pan and cake→pancake
  • Compounds usually consist of a “head” word and a modifier
    • The head word is usually the rightmost word
    • The modifier word precedes the head and qualifies the sense denoted by the head.
    • pancake, the head word is cake and the modifier word is pan.
  • Compounds can also have a head-complement relationship
    • e.g., taxi driver, dish washer
    • synthetic compounds
  • When producing English noun-noun compounds, Native English speakers tend to
    • exclude regular plural inflection
      • rat-eater not rats-eater
    • allowing irregular plural inflection
      • mice-eater

Exposure to the input alone is insufficient to explainthe observed dissociation between regular and irregular plural inflection in theproduction of English compounds. (e.g., Gordon, 1985).

pinker and prince s dual mechanism model
Pinker and Prince’s dual-mechanism model
  • The processing of regular morphology is mediated by classic symbolic rules of grammar
    • e.g., rat + [-s] = rats
  • Irregulars are stored as memorized pairs of words (mouse-mice) in the mental lexicon.

6% of occasions in which regular plurals appeared.

  • The possessive [-s] morpheme is a relatively common “regular” inflectional morpheme that appears within compounds (e.g., Adam’s apple).
    • either the phoneme /s/ or /z/ (which can also function as allomorphs of the regular plural morpheme) appears in a noun-noun sequence, it is almost always a possessive [-s] morpheme (Hayes, 2003).

Murphy (2000) suggested that one reason children might omit regular plurals from English compounds

    • the plural [-s] morpheme consistently is found at the end rather than in the middle of words.
haskell et al 2003 argued that two input driven constraints
Haskell et al. (2003) argued that two input-driven constraints
  • The semantic constraint works alongside their second phonetic constraint.
  • The phonetic and semantic constraints are learned from general properties of plurals and prenominal modifiers that children experience in the input they receive.
    • mice-chaser / big box
the aims of this study
The aims of this study
  • To explore the extent to which these more input-based or probabilistic explanations of how plural inflectional morphology and compounding interact might account for L2 learner behavior.
  • How nonhead nouns ending in the phoneme /s/ (or /z/) are treated in compounds
research questions
Research Questions

1. Will compounds containing possessive nouns be processed more quickly than compounds containing plural nouns?

2. Will the same preferences as shown by native speakers (NSs) be manifest by nonnative speakers (NNSs) who have had considerably less exposure to the input?

research questions1
Research Questions

3. Will compounds in which the first noun ends in /s/ (/z/), whether it is the plural form or not, be processed more slowly than compounds that do not include a first noun ending in /s/ (/z/)? Will this difference (if observed) be manifested by the NNSs who have had significantly less exposure to English? Assuming that the role of exposure is a critical variable, then one might predict that the L2 learners will not show this preference in the LDT task.


To preclude the order effects

    • half of the participants saw the stimuli in one random order
    • half of the participants saw it in a second random order.

The apostrophe was omitted from all the possessive nouns, making it impossible to distinguish between the plural and possessive solely on the basis of punctuation.

lexical decision task ldt
Lexical Decision Task (LDT)
  • Table 2
  • some nonwords included in the set of stimuli.
    • e.g., pent rasser
  • 48-point type
  • Apple iMac computer using Psyscope software
  • Response times were recorded by the Psyscope software.
accuracy data2
Accuracy Data
  • Figure 1 illustrates
    • the English native speakers were over 96% accurate,
    • the Chinese NNSs were over 86% accurate.
  • Neither group had any difficulty correctly distinguishing the real words in the compounds from the nonce compounds.
reaction time data2
Reaction Time Data
  • Figure 2 illustrates that for all different types of nonhead nouns, the Chinese NNSs were slower to respond on the LDT than the English NS.
comparison examination 1
Comparison Examination-1
  • Participants respond more quickly to compounds:
comparison examination 2
Comparison Examination-2
  • Participants responded differentlyto nonhead nouns that ended in /s/ (/z/)

NSs processed singular nonhead nouns not ending in /s/ (/z/) (e.g., drink) faster than they did those singular nonhead nouns that did end in /s/ (/z/) (e.g., grass).

  • There was no difference in this comparison for the Chinese NNSs.
comparison examination 3
Comparison Examination-3
  • To compare possessive morphology on nonhead nouns relative to irregulars
  • No reliable difference for the Chinese NNSs.

Separate comparisons revealed that the NSs

    • faster to respond to compounds with possessive morphology relative to regular plural morphology.
    • processed compounds without an /s/ (/z/) on the nonhead noun faster than those compounds with an internal /s/ (/z/) on the nonhead noun.
    • processed singular nonhead noun compounds more quickly than other singular nonhead nouns that ended in a phoneme /s/ (/z/).

NS participants responded more quickly to the possessive [-s] items

    • occur relatively frequently in the input.
  • NS participants responded more slowly to the phoneme /s/ (/z/) items
    • comparatively infrequent.

RT data for NSs show that they are faster to respond to possessive morphology

    • the input is an important factor here because irregular plural nouns are rare in naturally occurring noun-noun compounds.

Advanced L2 learners of English did not show the same preferences (as measured by RTs) as the NSs

    • had not had sufficient exposure to English
    • have excluded regular plurals from compounds in production.
the importance of using different tasks
The importance of using different tasks
  • Compound production task or preference task
    • Irregular plural
  • Present study
    • Take longer time to process a irregular plural than a process noun.
  • Constraints inherent in the design
    • small sample sizes
    • Unequal variability across groups
    • limitations of the stimuli
  • Need exploring include uncovering how much input is required
  • Sophisticated measures