Processing and representation of German -n plurals: A dual mechanism approach

Ingrid Sonnenstuhl and Axel Huth

To appear in: Brain and Language

  Four subclasses of German noun plurals affixed with -n, exhibiting different degrees of predictability, are investigated in a lexical decision experiment with visual stimuli, and in a cross-modal priming experiment. The lexical decision experiment compared -n plurals and irregular -er plurals to plurals with the default affix -s. Whereas the -s plurals did not yield any word-form frequency effects, such effects could be observed for all other plural forms, including all subclasses of -n plurals. The priming experiment produced a different pattern. We found that the prior presentations of fully predictable -n plurals prime the stems as effectively as the stem itself, whereas -n plurals with limited predictability yielded only reduced priming effects towards their stems. These results are explained in terms of an extended dual mechanism approach, taking into account an access level and a central level of lexical processing.