The present paper explores the representation of inflectional morphology in the English lexicon. There has been a long-standing debate about how these inflectional relationships might be involved during on-line processing. Inflected forms may be derived from an uninflected base form by rule application; by contrast, both regular and irregular inflection may be treated in the same way, with morphological patterns emerging from mappings between base and inflected forms. The present series of experiments investigated these issues using a lexical decision task. The first experiment showed that response latencies to nouns were significantly shorter than those to verbs. A possible explanation for these results can be found in differences in inflectional structure between English nouns and verbs. Namely, the relative frequency of uninflected compared with inflected forms is greater for nouns than for verbs. Two additional experiments compared noun stimuli with different inflectional structures. In all cases, differences in response latencies were predicted by the frequency of the surface form, whether uninflected or inflected. The pattern of results lends support for a unitary associative system for processing regular inflection of nouns in English and argues against the view that regular inflected plurals are derived by rule from a single, uninflected lexical entry.
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