Parafoveal access to word stem during reading: An eye movement study
Previous studies (Hyönä, Yan, & Vainio, 2018; Yan et al., 2014) have demonstrated that in morphologically rich languages a word's morphological status is processed parafoveally to be used in modulating saccadic programming in reading. In the present parafoveal preview study conducted in Finnish, we examined the exact nature of this effect by comparing reading of morphologically complex words (a stem + two suffixes) to that of monomorphemic words. In the preview-change condition, the final 3–4 letters were replaced with other letters making the target word a pseudoword; for suffixed words, the word stem remained intact but the suffix information was unavailable; for monomorphemic words, only part of the stem was parafoveally available. Three alternative predictions were put forth. According to the first alternative, the morphological effect in initial fixation location is due to parafoveally perceiving the suffix as a highly frequent letter cluster and then adjusting the saccade program to land closer to the word beginning for suffixed than monomorphemic words. The second alternative, the processing difficulty hypothesis, assumes a morphological complexity effect: suffixed words are more complex than monomorphemic words. Therefore, the attentional window is narrower and the saccade is shorter. The third alternative posits that the effect reflects parafoveal access to the word's stem. The results for the initial fixation location and fixation durations were consistent with the parafoveal stem-access view.