Morphological priming in the German mental lexicon

Ingrid Sonnenstuhl, Sonja Eisenbeiss, and Harald Clahsen

Cognition 72 (1999), 203-236

  We present results from cross-modal priming experiments on German participles and noun plurals. The experiments produced parallel results for both inflectional systems. Regular inflection exhibits full priming whereas irregularly inflected word forms show only partial priming: after hearing regularly inflected words (-t participles and -s plurals), lexical decision times on morphologically related word forms (presented visually) were similar to reaction times for a base-line condition in which prime and target were identical, but significantly shorter than in a control condition where prime and target were unrelated. In contrast, prior presentation of irregular words (-n participles and -er plurals) led to significantly longer response times on morphologically related word forms than the prior presentation of the target itself. Hence, there are clear priming differences between regularly and irregularly inflected German words. We compare the findings on German with experimental results on regular and irregular inflection in English and Italian, and discuss theoretical implications for single versus dual-mechanism models of inflection.