Morphological parafoveal preview benefit effects when reading derived words in Malay

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Winskel, H & Salehuddin, K 2014, 'Morphological parafoveal preview benefit effects when reading derived words in Malay', Kajian Malaysia, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 23-40.


Eye-movement tracking is a method that is used to study reading across different languages and is increasingly being employed. Eye movements provide a window into the underlying cognitive processes and mechanisms while a person is reading (Rayner, 1998). The majority of research investigating eye movements during reading has been conducted on European languages such as English and German; relatively little work has been conducted on other writing systems such as Malay. Malay offers an interesting opportunity to investigate early morphological processing because Malay has a rich derivational morphology that is more structurally and semantically transparent than English. The current study investigates whether the morphological constituents of affixed words (prefixed and suffixed) in Malay influence early word processing during reading using the boundary paradigm (Rayner, 1975). The boundary paradigm involves the positioning of a preview word stimulus in place of the target word so that when the eyes move towards the preview word, they cross an invisible boundary that triggers a change from the preview word to the target word. Two commonly used affixes were used: a prefix pe- and a suffix -an, which both convert a verb into a nominal (e.g. lakon, "to act", with the prefix pe- becomes pelakon, "actor"; and makan, "to eat", with the suffix -an becomes makanan, "food"). Thirty participants read 72 single sentences that were identical in length (having the same number of letters) and contained affixed and pseudo-affixed words. Parafoveal previews consisted of identical affixed and control conditions. The dependent measures were first fixation duration and gaze duration. The results revealed a significant preview benefit for the identical condition compared with the affixed and control conditions and for the affixed condition compared with the control condition. This effect was not influenced by word type; hence, there was no evidence of morphological pre-processing. In conclusion, the results from the current study indicate that although Malay is a morphologically rich language with a relatively transparent orthography, readers do not necessarily utilise early morphological processes. The results are discussed in terms of language and orthography-specific differences in early morphological processing.

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