Reading homophonous verb forms: An eye-tracking experiment

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Although the Dutch verb spelling system seems to be very straightforward, many spelling errors are made, both by children and adults (e.g., Sandra, Frisson, & Daems, 2004). These errors mainly occur with homophonous verb forms, which are common in the inflectional paradigm of Dutch verbs. While many studies investigated factors important in the production of these homophones, less is known about the processes underlying their perception. By means of an eye-tracking experiment with spontaneously produced sentences containing correctly and incorrectly spelled homophones, I investigated whether two factors found to be important in spelling homophones, namely whole-word frequency and verb suffix (/ ), also affect the online perception process of these homophones. In production, homophones that are relatively frequent are more easily produced, compared to their homophone counterparts with a relatively lower frequency. Similarly, forms ending in are more easily produced than forms ending in . The results show that these factors are also important in perception, and that errors that are made more often, are initially overlooked more often during reading, but lead to a processing delay in a later stage. The fact that the factors I investigated have different effects at different stages of the reading process, supports the assumption that a frequency-based retrieval procedure and a rule-based computational procedure simultaneously try to determine the correct spelling and are constantly in competition with each other. This can be explained in terms of Parallel Dual Route Models of spelling. In contrast to spelling production, however, in perception the competition between the two routes does not necessarily result in a single form, but can be seen as more dynamic and may vary over time during the perception process.
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