Allomorphic variation in Arabic: Implications for lexical processing and representation

Sami Boudelaa, William D. Marslen-Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


This study probes the effects of allomorphy on access to Arabic roots and word patterns in two cross-modal priming experiments. Experiment 1 used strong roots which undergo no allomorphy, and weak roots which undergo allomorphy and surface with only two of their three consonants in some derivations. Word pairs sharing a root morpheme prime each other reliably not only when the root was strong (e.g., [muaarikun]/[aaraka] participant/participate), but also when it was weak (e.g., [ittifaaqun]/[waafaqa] agreement-agree, where the weak root {wfq} surfaces fully in the target but not the prime). This facilitation occurred even when the weak root surfaced with different semantic meanings across prime and target (e.g., [ittiaahun]/[waaaha] destination/confront). Experiment 2 assessed the effects of allomorphy on word pattern processing, comparing word pairs where the word pattern is transparently realised in both prime and target (e.g., [intaara]/[ihtamala] spread/bear], with pairs which share the same underlying word pattern but where a weak root triggers an assimilation process in the prime (e.g., [ittahada]/[ibtasama] unite/smile). This assimilation process does not disrupt the CV-structure of the word pattern, in contrast to a third condition where this is disrupted in both prime and target (e.g., [daara]/[qaala] turn around/say). Strong priming effects were observed in the first two conditions but not in the third. The bearing of these findings on models of lexical processing and representation is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-116
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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