Using Statistical Models of Morphology in the Search for Optimal Units of Representation in the Human Mental Lexicon

Sami Petteri Virpioja, Minna Lehtonen, Annika Hultén, Henna Kivikari, Riitta Salmelin, Krista Lagus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Determining optimal units of representing morphologically complex words in the mental lexicon is a central question in psycholinguistics. Here, we utilize advances in computational sciences to study human morphological processing using statistical models of morphology, particularly the unsupervised Morfessor model that works on the principle of optimization. The aim was to see what kind of model structure corresponds best to human word recognition costs for multimorphemic Finnish nouns: a model incorporating units resembling linguistically defined morphemes, a whole-word model, or a model that seeks for an optimal balance between these two extremes. Our results showed that human word recognition was predicted best by a combination of two models: a model that decomposes words at some morpheme boundaries while keeping others unsegmented and a whole-word model. The results support dual-route models that assume that both decomposed and full-form representations are utilized to optimally process complex words within the mental lexicon.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)939-973
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 6162 Cognitive science
  • Mental lexicon
  • Lexical decision
  • Word recognition
  • Psycholinguistics
  • 113 Computer and information sciences
  • statistical language modeing
  • minimum description length principle
  • unsupervised learning
  • 6121 Languages
  • morphology

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