Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The ERP repetition priming paradigm has been shown to be sensitive to the processing differences between regular and irregular verb forms in English and German. The purpose of the present study is to extend this research to a language with a different inflectional system, Spanish. The design (delayed visual repetition priming) was adopted from our previous study on English, and the specific linguistic phenomena we examined are priming relations between different kinds of stem (or root) forms. There were two experimental conditions: In the first condition, the prime and the target shared the same stem form, e.g., “ando—andar” [I walk—to walk], whereas in the second condition, the prime contained a marked (alternated) stem, e.g., “duermo— dormir” [I sleep—to sleep]. A reduced N400 was found for unmarked (nonalternated) stems in the primed condition, whereas marked stems showed no such effect. Moreover, control conditions demonstrated that the surface form properties (i.e., the different degree of phonetic and ortho-graphic overlap between primes and targets) do not explain the observed priming difference. The ERP priming effect for verb forms with unmarked stems in Spanish is parallel to that found for regularly inflected verb forms in English and German. We argue that effective priming is possible because prime target pairs such as “ando—andar” access the same lexical entry for their stems. By contrast, verb forms with alternated stems (e.g., “duermo”) constitute separate lexical entries, and are therefore less powerful primes for their corresponding base forms.