Morphological processing during visual word recognition in Hebrew as a first and a second language

Tal Norman, Tamar Degani, Orna Peleg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study examined whether sublexical morphological processing takes place during visual word-recognition in Hebrew, and whether morphological decomposition of written words depends on lexical activation of the complete word. Furthermore, it examined whether morphological processing is similar when reading Hebrew as a first language (L1) or as a second language (L2), and whether L1’s morphological background, Semitic or Indo-European, modulates morphological processing in L2 Hebrew (a Semitic language), among proficient readers. To reveal the sublexical processing of the Hebrew morphemes, the Root (R) and the Pattern (P), a lexical-decision task was conducted, in which all critical stimuli were non-word letter-strings manipulated to include or exclude real Hebrew morphemes. Different combinations of real (+) and pseudo (−) morphemes yielded four types of non-words (+R+P; +R−P; −R+P, −R−P). Three groups of proficient Hebrew readers were tested: L1 Hebrew, L1 English-L2 Hebrew, and L1 Arabic-L2 Hebrew. Results demonstrated significant differences in latency and accuracy of responses to the four morphological conditions, indicating that sublexical morphological processing occurs during visual word-recognition of morphologically structured letter-strings in Hebrew. Importantly, the activation of real Hebrew morphemes occurred in non-word stimuli, indicating that morphological processing in Hebrew is separable from lexical activation. Moreover, the same pattern of results was observed in all three L1 groups, indicating that proficient L2 readers exhibit morphological processing strategies that are tuned to the L2 morphology, regardless of their L1 background.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-85
Number of pages17
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
During the writing of this manuscript, T. D. was supported by EU-FP7 Grant CIG-322016.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Hebrew
  • L1 transfer
  • Morphological processing
  • Visual word recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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