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Morphologically complex words in L1 and L2 processing: Evidence from masked priming experiments in English*



This paper reports results from masked priming experiments investigating regular past-tense forms and deadjectival nominalizations with -ness and -ity in adult native (L1) speakers of English and in different groups of advanced adult second language (L2) learners of English. While the L1 group showed efficient priming for both inflected and derived word forms, the L2 learners demonstrated repetition-priming effects (like the L1 group), but no priming for inflected and reduced priming for derived word forms. We argue that this striking contrast between L1 and L2 processing supports the view that adult L2 learners rely more on lexical storage and less on combinatorial processing of morphologically complex words than native speakers.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Harald Clahsen, Department of Linguistics, University of Essex, Colchester, C04 3SQ,


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We are grateful to Jim Blevins, Ian Cunnings, Sonja Eisenbeiss, Claudia Felser, Roger Hawkins, Hui-Yu Pan, Mika Sato, Michael Ullman, João Verissimo, and two anonymous BLC reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.



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