Early Form Based Morphological Decomposition in Tagalog: MEG Evidence from Reduplication, Infixation and Circumfixation

Samantha Wray, Linnaea Stockall, Alec Marantz
2021 Neurobiology of Language  
Neuro- and psycholinguistic experimentation supports the early decomposition of morphologically complex words within the ventral processing stream, which MEG has localized to the M170 response in the (left) visual word form area (VWFA). Decomposition into an exhaustive parse of visual morpheme forms extends beyond words like "farmer" to those imitating complexity (e.g. "brother", Lewis et al. 2011), and to "unique" stems occurring in only one word but following the syntax and semantics of their
more » ... affix (e.g. "vulnerable", Gwilliams & Marantz 2018). Evidence comes primarily from suffixation; other morphological processes have been under-investigated. This study explores circumfixation, infixation, and reduplication in Tagalog. In addition to investigating whether these are parsed like suffixation, we address an outstanding question concerning semantically empty morphemes. Some words in Tagalog resemble English "winter" as decomposition is not supported (wint-er); these apparently reduplicated pseudoreduplicates lack the syntactic and semantic features of reduplicated forms. However, unlike "winter," these words exhibit phonological behavior predicted only if they involve a reduplicating morpheme. If these are decomposed, this provides evidence that words are analyzed as complex, like English "vulnerable", when the grammar demands it. In a lexical decision task with MEG, we find that VWFA activity correlates with stem:word transition probability for circumfixed, infixed and reduplicated words. Furthermore, a Bayesian analysis suggests that pseudoreduplicates with reduplicate-like phonology are also decomposed; other pseudoreduplicates are not. These findings are consistent with an interpretation that decomposition is modulated by phonology in addition to syntax and semantics.
doi:10.1162/nol_a_00062 fatcat:uaqkcr7j5zcpja2q5gafupxgii