Interpreting dissociations between regular and irregular past-tense morphology: Evidence from event-related potentials

Timothy Justus, Jary Larsen, Paul De Mornay Davies, Diane Swick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neuropsychological dissociations between regular and irregular English past-tense morphology have been reported using a lexical decision task in which past-tense primes immediately precede present-tense targets. We present N400 event-related potential data from healthy participants using the same design. Both regular and irregular past-tense forms primed corresponding present-tense forms, but with a longer duration for irregular verbs. Phonological control conditions suggested that differences in formal overlap between prime and target contribute to, but do not account for, this difference, suggesting a link between irregular morphology and semantics. Further analysis dividing the irregular verbs into two categories (weak irregular and strong) revealed that priming for strong verbs was reliably stronger than that for weak irregular and regular verbs, which were statistically indistinguishable from one another. We argue that, although we observe a regular-irregular dissociation, the nature of this dissociation is more consistent with single- than with dual-system models of inflectional morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-194
Number of pages17
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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