Changing places: A cross-language perspective on frequency and family size in Dutch and Hebrew

Fermín Moscoso del Prado Martín, Avital Deutsch, Ram Frost, Robert Schreuder, Nivja H. De Jong, R. Harald Baayen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


This study uses the morphological family size effect as a tool for exploring the degree of isomorphism in the networks of morphologically related words in the Hebrew and Dutch mental lexicon. Hebrew and Dutch are genetically unrelated, and they structure their morphologically complex words in very different ways. Two visual lexical decision experiments document substantial cross-language predictivity for the family size measure after partialing out the effect of word frequency and word length. Our data show that the morphological family size effect is not restricted to Indo-European languages but extends to languages with non-concatenative morphology. In Hebrew, a new inhibitory component of the family size effect emerged that arises when a Hebrew root participates in different semantic fields.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)496-512
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are indebted to Keren Shatzman for her help in translating the Hebrew stimuli into Dutch. We also wish to thank Laurie Feldman, David Plaut, and three anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. This research was supported by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, and the University of Nijmegen, through a pionier Grant to R.H. Baayen. During the last stages of preparation of this manuscript, the first author received additional support from the Medical Research Council (UK) and the European Community under the “Information Society Technologies Programme” (IST-2001-35282).


  • Family size effect
  • Hebrew
  • Morphological processing
  • Semitic root
  • Visual lexical decision


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