The Missing-Letter Effect in Hebrew: Word Frequency or Word Function?

Asher Koriat, Seth N. Greenberg, Yona Goldshmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Letters are often missed in processing highly common words, such as THE and AND (the missing-letter effect). According to the unitization model, this occurs because familiar words access their whole-word representations, preempting processing of their letters. In contrast, we attribute the missing-letter effect to the linguistic function of these words. In Hebrew, some function morphemes appear as single letters prefixed to content words. Although prefix words are not more frequent than matched-content words, they engendered a missing-letter effect that was confined to the function morpheme letter. Interpretation of theses results in terms of a greater unitization of the phrase as a whole was not supported. Also ambiguous Hebrew words produced more omissions when interpreted as prefix plus stem combinations than as unprefixed content words. The missing-letter effect reflects postlexical processing, where function morphemes are lost in the transition from structure to meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-80
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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