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The Processing of ambiguous morphemes in Turkish

Ataman, Esra.
Studies investigating the processing of linguistic ambiguity have to date mostly focused on lexical ambiguity. Morphemic ambiguity, on the other hand, has been less frequently studied in spite of its cross-linguistic prevalence. An intermediate level of representation (i.e. the lemma level) between form and meaning has been claimed to successfully account for the processing of ambiguous morphemes in English and Chinese. Moreover, meaning frequency has been found to affect the processing of these morphemes. Dwelling on this background, this thesis investigated whether an intermediate level of representation could be used to explain the processing of morphemic ambiguity in derived homonymous words (i.e. yan, Eng., side or to burn, in yanıcı, Eng., flammable) in Turkish. The second aim was to examine whether the relative meaning frequencies of the ambiguous morphemes would modulate the processing of morphemic ambiguity in Turkish. A masked priming lexical decision task (SOA: 50 ms) designed with four prime types (i.e. dominant, subordinate, opaque, unrelated) and two target types (i.e. dominant and subordinate) was run with adult Turkish native speakers. The results showed that no significant morpho-semantic priming was obtained, and the effect of the meaning frequency was not significant, which could imply that no intermediate level of representation is necessary. However, a statistically non-significant trend in the data indicated a different pattern of processing for the dominant and the subordinate targets, which could still be explained by an intermediate level of representation and the effect of the meaning frequency.