Morphological priming effects in L2 English verbs for Japanese-English bilinguals

Wanner-Kawahara, J., Yoshihara, M., Lupker, S. J., Verdonschot, R. G., & Nakayama, M. (2022). Morphological priming effects in L2 English verbs for Japanese-English bilinguals. Frontiers in Psychology, 13: 742965. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.742965.
For native (L1) English readers, masked presentations of past-tense verb primes (e.g., fell and looked) produce faster lexical decision latencies to their present-tense targets (e.g., FALL and LOOK) than orthographically related (e.g., fill and loose) or unrelated (e.g., master and bank) primes. This facilitation observed with morphologically related prime-target pairs (morphological priming) is generally taken as evidence for strong connections based on morphological relationships in the L1 lexicon. It is unclear, however, if similar, morphologically based, connections develop in non-native (L2) lexicons. Several earlier studies with L2 English readers have reported mixed results. The present experiments examine whether past-tense verb primes (both regular and irregular verbs) significantly facilitate target lexical decisions for Japanese-English bilinguals beyond any facilitation provided by prime-target orthographic similarity. Overall, past-tense verb primes facilitated lexical decisions to their present-tense targets relative to both orthographically related and unrelated primes. Replicating previous masked priming experiments with L2 readers, orthographically related primes also facilitated target recognition relative to unrelated primes, confirming that orthographic similarity facilitates L2 target recognition. The additional facilitation from past-tense verb primes beyond that provided by orthographic primes suggests that, in the L2 English lexicon, connections based on morphological relationships develop in a way that is similar to how they develop in the L1 English lexicon even though the connections and processing of lower level, lexical/orthographic information may differ. Further analyses involving L2 proficiency revealed that as L2 proficiency increased, orthographic facilitation was reduced, indicating that there is a decrease in the fuzziness in orthographic representations in the L2 lexicon with increased proficiency.
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