[PS-2.73] The effects of imageability in past tense production are not limited to irregular verbs and interact with frequency

Smolík, F.

Institute of Psychology CAS, Prague

Imageability is the tendency of words to elicit mental images of their referents. Recent research suggests that inflected forms of words are created and acquired faster in words with high imageability. In some studies, this effect is only present in irregularly infected verbs, suggesting that imageability effects may differentiate between memory-based and rule-based word form generation. In such a case, interactions with frequency might be expected because frequency is the primary factor that determines whether a form will be stored or generated. The present study used a publicly available data set, the Past Tense Inflection Project, to examine the effects of imageability, frequency, and regularity on the production of past tense forms. The data set contains over 2000 verbs with response times in the past tense generation task and imageability ratings. Linear modeling revealed significant three-way interaction between imageability, regularity, and frequency. The effects of imageability were stronger in irregular verbs compared to regulars. Low-frequency words were affected by imageability to a larger extent than high-frequency verbs. The results are difficult to reconcile with some aspects of all current explanations for the imageability effects. It is suggested that imageability affects morphological operations in the working memory.