Creemers, A., Goodwin Davies, A., Wilder, R. J., Tamminga, M., & Embick, D.
(2020). Opacity, transparency, and morphological priming: A study of prefixed verbs in Dutch. Journal of Memory and Language, 110: 104055. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2019.104055.
A basic question for the study of the mental lexicon is whether there are morphological representations and processes that are independent of phonology and semantics. According to a prominent tradition, morphological relatedness requires semantic transparency: semantically transparent words are related in meaning to their stems, while semantically opaque words are not. This study examines the question of morphological relatedness using intra-modal auditory priming by Dutch prefixed verbs. The key conditions involve semantically transparent prefixed primes (e.g., aanbieden ‘offer’, with the stem bieden, also ‘offer’) and opaque primes (e.g., verbieden ‘forbid’). Results show robust facilitation for both transparent and opaque pairs; phonological (Experiment 1) and semantic (Experiment 2) controls rule out the possibility that these other types of relatedness are responsible for the observed priming effects. The finding of facilitation with opaque primes suggests that morphological processing is independent of semantic and phonological representations. Accordingly, the results are incompatible with theories that make semantic overlap a necessary condition for relatedness, and favor theories in which words may be related in ways that do not require shared meaning. The general discussion considers several specific proposals along these lines, and compares and contrasts questions about morphological relatedness of the type found here with the different but related question of whether there is morphological decomposition of complex forms or not.