[PS-2.45] Maltese root priming is morphological, not phonological

Ussishkin, A. 1 , Spagnol, M. 2 , Velan, H. 3 , Wedel, A. 1 & Wray, S. 1

1 University of Arizona
2 University of Malta
3 Levinsky College of Education

Work in Semitic word recognition consistently shows that the consonantal root morpheme facilitates lexical retrieval. In the auditory modality, Ussishkin et al. (2015) reported speeded lexical retrieval for Maltese target words when they are primed by words sharing the same consonantal root.

Here, we address the possible contribution of consonant overlap in Maltese by taking advantage of the fact that lexicon is half Semitic and half non-Semitic. To address consonant overlap without morphological relatedness, we carried out two lexical decision experiments: one with auditory masked priming (Kouider and Dupoux 2005) and another with visual masked priming (Forster and Davis 1984) to test for priming effects between primes and targets from each half of the lexicon; e.g., kiber 'to grow' (Semitic) - kobra 'cobra' (non-Semitic), where both words contain the consonants kbr without any morphological relationship.

Our results were consistent across modalities, and showed an expected repetition priming effect, yet no facilitation was found in the consonant-overlap priming condition, similar to what has been found in Hebrew visual word recognition (Frost, Kugler, Deutsch and Forster 2005; Velan and Frost 2011). This indicates that Maltese word recognition is not facilitated by mere consonant overlap; rather, a morphological relationship is required.