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A facilitatory effect of rich stem allomorphy but not inflectional productivity on single-word recognition



The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the recognition speed of Finnish nominal base forms varies as a function of their paradigmatic complexity (stem allomorphy) or productivity status. Nikolaev et al. (2014) showed that words with greater stem allomorphy from an unproductive inflectional class are recognized faster than words with lower stem allomorphy from a productive inflectional class. Productivity of an inflectional paradigm correlates with the number of stem allomorphs in languages like Finnish in that unproductive inflectional classes tend to have higher stem allomorphy. We wanted to distinguish which of these two characteristics provides the benefit to speed of recognition found by Nikolaev et al. (2014). The current study involved a lexical decision task comparing three categories of words: unproductive with three or more stem allomorphs, unproductive with two stem allomorphs, and productive with two stem allomorphs. We observed a facilitation effect for word recognition only for unproductive words with three or more stem allomorphs, but not for unproductive words with two allomorphs. This effect was observed particularly in words of low to moderate familiarity. The findings suggest that high stem allomorphy, rather than productivity of the inflectional class, is driving the facilitation effect in word recognition.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Alexandre Nikolaev, University of Helsinki, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, P.O. Box 4 (Fabianinkatu 24), FIN 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:


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