Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Much research suggests that words comprising more than one morpheme are decomposed into morphemes in the early stages of visual word recognition. In the present masked primed lexical decision study, we investigated whether or not decomposition occurs for both prefixed and suffixed nonwords, and for nonwords which comprise a stem and a non-morphemic ending. Prime-target relatedness was manipulated in the three ways: (1) primes shared a semantically transparent morphological relationship with the target (e.g., subcheap-CHEAP; cheapize-CHEAP); (2) primes comprised targets and non-affixal letter strings (e.g., blacheap-CHEAP; cheapstry-CHEAP); (3) primes were real, complex words unrelated to the target (e.g., miscall-CHEAP; idealism-CHEAP). Both affixed and non-affixed nonwords significantly facilitated the recognition of their stem targets, suggesting that embedded stems are activated independently of whether they are accompanied by a real affix or a non-affix. There was no difference in priming between stems being embedded in initial and final string position, indicating that embedded stem activation is position-independent. Finally, more priming was observed in the semantically interpretable affixed condition than in the non-affixed condition, which points to a semantic licencing mechanism during complex novel word processing.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)

Publication Date



1 - 34


lexical decision, masked priming, morphological processing, visual word recognition