Processing the Internal Structure of English Words: Professor Marcus Taft

What is this research about?

Printed English words are more than just a linear string of letters. They have internal structure, not only when they have stems and affixes (e.g., un-friend-li-ness), but when they are composed of more than one meaningless syllable (e.g., cam-ou-flage), or even when they are monosyllabic (e.g., sm-ash). The question that is addressed by the experiments undertaken within this project is whether proficient native readers make use of this internal structure when identifying words.

The experiments typically adopt a "lexical decision task", where participants must decide whether a letter-string is a real English word or not. A particular aspect of the letter-string is systematically manipulated, and the speed and accuracy of the lexical decision response is taken as a measure of the importance of that aspect of the letter-string in its identification. From this, a theoretical model of visual word recognition has been developed.

Other researchers recently working on this project:

Dr Lisi Beyersmann, Macquarie University
Prof Jonathan Grainger, Aix-Marseille University, France
Prof Ken Forster, Macquarie University

Recent publications relating to this research:

Taft, M. (2015). The nature of lexical representation in visual word recognition. In A. Pollatsek, & R. Treiman (Eds.) Handbook on Reading. Pp. 99-113. New York: Oxford University Press.
Taft, M. (2013). Cognitive mechanisms for lexical access. In M. Aronoff (Ed.) Oxford Bibliographies in Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press.
Taft, M., Xu, J., & Li, S. (2017). Letter coding in visual word recognition: The impact of embedded words. Journal of Memory and Language, 92, 14–25.
Xu, J., & Taft, M. (2015). The effects of semantic transparency and base frequency on the recognition of English complex words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 41, 904-910.
Taft, M., & Álvarez, C.J. (2014). Coda optimization in the segmentation of English polysyllabic letter-strings. Experimental Psychology, 61, 488-494.
Xu, J., & Taft, M. (2014). Solely soles: Inter-lemma competition in inflected word recognition. Journal of Memory & Language, 76, 127-140.
Taft, M., & Nillsen, C. (2013). Morphological decomposition and the transposed-letter (TL) position effect. Language and Cognitive Processes, 28, 917-938.
Taft, M., & Krebs-Lazendic, L. (2013). The role of orthographic syllable structure in assigning letters to their position in visual word recognition. Journal of Memory & Language, 68, 85-97.
Taft, M., & Nguyen-Hoan, M. (2010). A sticky stick: The locus of morphological representation in the lexicon. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25, 277-296.

Recent grants awarded:

2015-2017: The basics of reading: How are letter-strings identified as words?; Marcus Taft. Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP150100768 [$218,635]
2015: AUSTRAL: A new computational model of reading; Marcus Taft and Max Coltheart. UNSW Gold Star [$30,000]
2014: Orthographic processing in visual word recognition; Marcus Taft. UNSW Gold Star [$30,000]
2010-2012: How we read words: from the letters on the page to the words in our head; Marcus Taft. Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP1093772 [$274,000]