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An Experimental Investigation of Complexity-Based Ordering Open Access


Other title
lexical frequency
suffix ordering
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Teddiman, Laura G. H.
Supervisor and department
Libben, Gary (VP Research, Brock University)
Bolger, Patrick (Linguistics)
Baayen, Harald (Linguistics)
Examining committee member and department
Newman, John (Linguistics)
Jarvikivi, Juhani (Department of Modern Languages, NTNU)
Westbury, Chris (Psychology)
Department of Linguistics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation examines the phenomenon of suffix ordering in English from a psycholinguistic perspective. Key to this work is an examination of Complexity-Based Ordering, a theory of affix ordering that combines both selectional restrictions and processing constraints. Complexity-Based Ordering provides a hierarchical rank for each suffix in English by combining suffix-specific combinatorial restrictions with general principles of processing complexity (e.g., ease of parsing, relative root and derived frequencies). Suffixes higher on the hierarchy are expected to be easier to parse out from the word and should be attached outside of suffixes of lower rank. The first paper examines lexical decision and naming latencies to base+suffix+suffix words (e.g., hope+ful+ly), finding roles for root, base, and word frequencies as significant predictors of response latencies. Effects of Rank, however, are absent. The second paper presents a lexical decision experiment with an additional eye-tracking component, revealing a time-course for lexical access, with the root+suffix1 (hope+ful in hopefully) frequency appearing as a significant predictor of fixation durations before whole word frequency. The final paper presents an eye-tracking study of words in sentence context with an additional Event-Related Potential (ERP) component. In this experiment, the Rank of the second suffix becomes a useful predictor. When the second suffix in a base+suffix+suffix word is of low Rank, higher processing costs are reflected in longer response times. In all three experiments, a role for a new frequency measure, the suffix pair frequency, is revealed. The effects of Rank, as determined by the Complexity-Based Ordering hierarchy, are absent during single-word recognition tasks (lexical decision, naming), but are prevalent during sentence reading, highlighting the role of sentential context and predictability during language processing.
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