Processing of inflectional stem changes of Finnish words in native speakers and L2 learners

  • Salmela, R. (Speaker)
  • Minna Lehtonen (Contributor)
  • Raymond Bertram (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Finnish is a language of rich morphology. In addition to a large number of affixes, there is abundance of stem alterations that might obscure recognition of the word‐internal structure. These characteristics may challenge L2 learners’ lexical processing. In two experiments, we investigated a) to what extent morphological complexity and stem changes affect L2 speakers’ word recognition in Finnish and b) to what extent these effects are modulated by sentence context. Participants were native speakers of Finnish and low‐ to intermediate‐level L2 learners. The target word set consisted of three conditions: monomorphemic nouns, e.g. lääkäri (‘a doctor’), inflected nouns, e.g. aamu: aamu+lla (‘in the morning’) and inflected nouns with stem alteration, e.g. ilta: illa+lla (‘in the evening’). Experiment 1 used a visual lexical decision task, in which the target words were presented in isolation. In Experiment 2, the same target words were embedded in matched sentence contexts and eye‐movement patterns were recorded during reading. The lexical decision results showed the standard response time delay of inflectional processing in native speakers, and both groups displayed longer RTs for inflected words with stem changes. However, whereas for L1 speakers the error rates were equally low across conditions (1 to 2%), L2 learners made more mistakes with inflections including stem changes than for monomorphemic nouns or transparent inflections. Preliminary results from Experiment 2 suggest that inflected words with stem changes cause delay also in sentence reading particularly in L2 learners, and this effect may vary depending on inflectional case or word length. The results underline the notion that idiosyncratic language characteristics of Finnish challenge the L2 learner and that these features require extra attention in educational settings.
Event titleScandinavian Workshop of Applied Eye-Tracking
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational