Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





compound words, eye tracking, pseudocompound words


Buchanan, L.




Compound words are words with multiple constituents that individually have their own meaning and that combine to make another meaning (e.g. dog + house = doghouse). When these constituents help us infer the meaning of the whole compound word, they are known as transparent constituents (e.g. doghouse, blueberry). In contrast, opaque constituents do not help us infer the meaning of the whole compound word (e.g. moonshine). Compound words can be fully transparent, fully opaque (not at all transparent), or partially transparent (e.g. strawberry, which is a berry, but not made of straw). Previous research has indicated that there is a processing advantage afforded to compound words when compared to monomorphemic words in lexical decision tasks (Ji, Gagné, & Spalding, 2011). When a space was added between constituents, which encourages the reader to process the word through decomposition, opaque compound words lost this advantage. The current study investigated whether compound words are processed differently from monomorphemic words and whether their processing is influenced by transparency, task, or presentation effects. Consequently, this study uses four transparency groups (fully transparent, fully opaque, and opaque/transparent and transparent/opaque words), four types of tasks (lexical decision, letter detection, semantic categorization, and word relatedness), and two presentation conditions (intact presentation and spaced presentation). Dependant variables included reaction time, accuracy, and eye tracking data from 120 University of Windsor students. Every participant was exposed to each transparency word type, but only to one task and one presentation condition. Data were analyzed using linear mixed effects modeling procedures. Overall, there was minimal evidence supporting the hypothesis of processing advantages being afforded to compound words as compared to monomorphemic words. However, the evidence supports that participants process compound words and monomorphemic differently. Further, pseudocompound words were found to be significantly different from monomorphemic words in all conditions that had semantic information embedded in the task requirements. Altogether, task requirements, transparency, and presentation condition all influenced how participants responded to the stimulus set with respect to reaction time, accuracy, and eye tracking results.