I examined the nature of morphological decomposition in a series of masked-priming experiments with Russian prefixed nouns. In Experiments 1A and 1B, I tested 3 types of prime-target pairs in which the prime was a morphologically simple word, and a facilitation was found when the prime and the target were truly morphologically related (e.g., narost [outgrowth] and rost [growth] are morphologically related via the prefix na- [on]) or apparently morphologically related (e.g., priton [den] and ton [tone] seem to be morphologically related via the prefix pri- [toward], but this relation is false) but not when the relation was purely orthographic (e.g., kumir [idol] and mir [peace]; ku- is not an existing prefix of Russian). These results suggest that all orthographic forms that can be exhaustively parsed into a prefix and a stem are decomposed into (apparent) constituent morphemes during their retrieval from the lexicon. This early segmentation process is driven by morpho-orthographic but not by morphosemantic considerations and applies even for derived forms that are more frequent than their stem.
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