Orthographic structure versus morphological structure: Principles of lexical organization in a given language

Ram Frost*, Tamar Kugler, Avital Deutsch, Kenneth I. Forster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Most models of visual word recognition in alphabetic orthographies assume that words are lexically organized according to orthographic similarity. Support for this is provided by form-priming experiments that demonstrate robust facilitation when primes and targets share similar sequences of letters. The authors examined form-orthographic priming effects in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Hebrew and Arabic have an alphabetic writing system but a Semitic morphological structure. Hebrew morphemic units are composed of noncontiguous phonemic (and letter) sequences in a given word. Results demonstrate that form-priming effects in Hebrew or Arabic are unreliable, whereas morphological priming effects with minimal letter overlap are robust. Hebrew bilingual subjects, by contrast, showed robust form-priming effects with English material, suggesting that Semitic words are lexically organized by morphological rather than orthographic principles. The authors conclude that morphology can constrain lexical organization even in alphabetic orthographies and that visual processing of words is first determined by morphological characteristics.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1293-1326
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Form priming
  • Lexical organization
  • Morphology
  • Orthography


Dive into the research topics of 'Orthographic structure versus morphological structure: Principles of lexical organization in a given language'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this