ASA 129th Meeting - Washington, DC - 1995 May 30 .. Jun 06

1aSC17. Word frequency effects on the acoustic duration of morphemes.

Beth L. Losiewicz

Dept. of Psych., Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO 80901

The acoustic duration of the English past tense (ED) morpheme was measured for matched high- and low-frequency verbs (e.g., KNEADED/NEEDED). The ED on low-frequency verbs was of longer acoustic duration than the ED on matched high-frequency words. The rhyming portion of the matched verbs also showed a lengthening effect for the low-frequency words; in contrast to previous reports that word frequency does not affect word acoustic duration [Geffen and Luszcz, Mem. Cogn. 11, 13--15; Wright Mem. Cogn. 7, 411--419]. However, this effect was statistically independent of the ED length effect, and the final phonetic segment of a low-frequency monomorphemic verb stem was not longer in acoustic duration than a homophonous segment on a matched high-frequency verb (e.g., the /d/ in KNEAD/NEED). Further, the ED morpheme is of longer acoustic duration than a homophonous segment in a nonverb homophone (e.g., RAPPED/RAPT), as earlier reported for the morpheme /s/ [Walsh and Parker, J. Phon. 11, 201--206]. This set of evidence corroborates a frequency-dependent dual-access processing theory of linguistic morphology: that high-frequency complex words are processed holistically and low-frequency complex words are processed componentially [cf. Bybee, Morphology (1985)].