Conceptual salience of prefixes in L2 acquisition and processing: a reading-time study within context
The paradigmatic dimension of constructed words has led to variables which have been proved to influence morphological (on-line) processing. Τhe study presented here seeks to fill a gap in this domain by considering acquisition and processing of constructed words in Greek L2 with a self-paced reading task combined with a consistency judgment, where the critical stimuli are presented within context (and not isolated). We focus on a variable of conceptual-semantic nature, the conceptual salience of the prefix, which is crossed with semantic transparency for the purposes of the experiment. The variable ‘conceptual salience’ relates to the uniqueness versus multiplicity of the prefix’s meanings, e.g., the prefix προ-, as in προβλέπω ‘foresee’ versus the prefix επί-, as in επίδειξη ‘demonstration’. Our results show that distinguishing between consistent and inconsistent critical items is made easier for our advanced L2 participants for the salient conditions, both transparent and opaque, while the results are less conclusive amongst participants with a lower level of language proficiency. The data clearly show that the facilitatory effect of the variable ‘conceptual salience’ extends beyond prelexical or perceptual characteristics of the constructed words and underline the need to examine the role of language-specific information in word boundaries.