Taking the book from the bookshelf

masked constituent priming effects from compound words and nonwords

Anna Elisabeth Beyersmann, Yvette Kezilas, Max Coltheart, Anne Castles, Johannes C. Ziegler, Marcus Taft, Jonathan Grainger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Downloads (Pure)


Recent evidence from visual word recognition points to the important role of embedded words, suggesting that embedded words are activated independently of whether they are accompanied by an affix or a non-affix. The goal of the present research was to more closely examine the mechanisms involved in embedded word activation, particularly with respect to the “edge-alignedness” of the embedded word. We conducted two experiments that used masked priming in combination with lexical decision. In Experiment 1, monomorphemic target words were either preceded by a compound word prime (e.g., textbook-BOOK/textbook-TEXT), a compound-nonword prime (e.g., pilebook-BOOK/textpile-TEXT), a non-compound nonword prime (e.g., pimebook-BOOK/textpime-TEXT) or an unrelated prime (e.g., textjail-BOOK/jailbook-TEXT). The results revealed significant priming effects, not only in the compound word and compound-nonword conditions, but also in the non-compound nonword condition, suggesting that embedded words (e.g., book) were activated independently of whether they occurred in combination with a real morpheme (e.g., pilebook) or a non-morphemic constituent (e.g., pimebook). Priming in the compound word condition was greater than in the two nonword conditions, indicating that participants benefited from the whole-word representation of real compound words. Constituent priming occurred independently of whether the target word was the first or the second embedded constituent of the prime (e.g., textbook-BOOK vs. textbook-TEXT). In Experiment 2, significant priming effects were found for edge-aligned embedded constituents (e.g., pimebook-BOOK), but not for mid-embedded (e.g., pibookme-BOOK) or the outer-embedded constituents (e.g., bopimeok-BOOK), suggesting that edge-alignedness is a key factor determining the activation of embedded words.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • compound word processing
  • embedded words
  • masked priming
  • lexical decision

Cite this