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Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research 3/2022

06-06-2021 | Original Article

The impact of capitalized German words on lexical access

Auteurs: Melanie Labusch, Sonja A. Kotz, Manuel Perea

Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 3/2022

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Abstract

Leading models of visual word recognition assume that the process of word identification is driven by abstract, case-invariant units (e.g., table and TABLE activate the same abstract representation). But do these models need to be modified to meet nuances of orthography as in German, where the first letter of common nouns is capitalized (e.g., Buch [book] and Hund [dog], but blau [blue])? To examine the role of initial capitalization of German words in lexical access, we chose a semantic categorization task (“is the word an animal name?”). In Experiment 1, we compared German words in all-lowercase vs. initial capitalization (hund, buch, blau vs. Hund, Buch, Blau). Results showed faster responses for animal nouns with initial capitalization (Hund < hund) and faster responses for lowercase non-nouns (blau < Blau). Surprisingly, we found faster responses for lowercase non-animal nouns (buch < Buch). As the latter difference could derive from task demands (i.e., buch does not follow German orthographic rules and requires a “no” response), we replaced the all-lowercase format with an orthographically legal all-uppercase format in Experiment 2. Results showed an advantage for all nouns with initial capitalization (Hund < HUND and Buch < BUCH). These findings clearly show that initial capitalization in German words constitutes an essential part of the words’ representations and is used during lexical access. Thus, models of visual word recognition, primarily focused on English orthography, should be expanded to the idiosyncrasies of other Latin-based orthographies.
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Voetnoten
1
In Danish and Norwegian, the capitalization of common nouns was suppressed because it was considered unnecessary—this decision was also politically motivated to separate these languages from German (see Bandle et al., 2005).
 
2
We acknowledge that empirical evidence of case-sensitive masked priming effects is not conclusive with brand names (e.g., ikea-IKEA vs. IKEA-IKEA; Martin & Davis, 2019; Perea et al., 2015a, 2015b) or acronyms (e.g., btw-BTW vs. BTW-BTW; Brysbaert et al., 2009; Kinoshita et al., 2021).
 
3
We matched the animal names and the non-animal common nouns in terms of length and bigram frequency. However, this was not possible for word frequency (most animal nouns are of medium/low frequency).
 
4
We thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this explanation.
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
The impact of capitalized German words on lexical access
Auteurs
Melanie Labusch
Sonja A. Kotz
Manuel Perea
Publicatiedatum
06-06-2021
Uitgeverij
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Gepubliceerd in
Psychological Research / Uitgave 3/2022
Print ISSN: 0340-0727
Elektronisch ISSN: 1430-2772
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01540-3