Early stages of morphological processing in second language
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This study explores the way L2 learners process words. While some studies argue that second language learners rely on recognizing whole words in their second language, other research note that second language learners use the same word recognition strategies as native speakers do. We carried out a visual forward masked priming experiment in order to investigate decomposition during early stages of morphological processing. The prime-target trials were used in four experimental conditions: transparent, opaque, form and control. Our results are in line with the earlier studies on masked priming in L1 according to which transparent primes induce great facilitation in lexical decision tasks while opaque primes show larger effects than primes under the form condition. We conclude that the current study provides evidence that L2 learners can decompose complex words into their potential morphemes. Moreover, we found an interesting interaction between the frequency of use of the primes and targets and the opaque primes. We concluded that the more frequent the opaque primes were compared to their targets, the more difficult it got for our participants to decompose pseudo-complex words. These results suggest that L2 learners are sensitive to the semantics of the prime words at early states of morphological processing.