Semantic processing during morphological priming: An ERP study

Elisabeth Beyersmann*, Galina Iakimova, Johannes C. Ziegler, Pascale Colé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has yielded conflicting results regarding the onset of semantic processing during morphological priming. The present study was designed to further explore the time-course of morphological processing using event-related potentials (ERPs). We conducted a primed lexical decision study comparing a morphological (LAVAGE - laver [washing - wash]), a semantic (LINGE - laver [laundry - wash]), an orthographic (LAVANDE - laver [lavender - wash]), and an unrelated control condition (HOSPICE - laver [nursing home - wash]), using the same targets across the four priming conditions. The behavioral data showed significant effects of morphological and semantic priming, with the magnitude of morphological priming being significantly larger than the magnitude of semantic priming. The ERP data revealed significant morphological but no semantic priming at 100-250 ms. Furthermore, a reduction of the N400 amplitude in the morphological condition compared to the semantic and orthographic condition demonstrates that the morphological priming effect was not entirely due to the semantic or orthographic overlap between the prime and the target. The present data reflect an early process of semantically blind morphological decomposition, and a later process of morpho-semantic decomposition, which we discuss in the context of recent morphological processing theories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-55
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision N400
  • Language
  • Lexical
  • Morphological priming
  • Orthographic processing
  • Semantic processing
  • Time course
  • Visual word recognition

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