The effect of frequency on the comprehension of multi-word phrases in Turkish

Hüseyin Demirtaş

The effect of frequency on multi-word phrases is a comparatively recent area of inquiry. The interaction between multi-word phrases and frequency effects and the existence of multi-word frequency effects can shed light on the debates about the nature of human mental lexicon. Words and Rules approach to mental lexicon argues that words and rules are stored separately in the lexicon while Emergentist models argue that frequency of exposure shapes the representation of language and there is not a very clear-cut distinction between words and rules. In this study, we explored the effects of multiword frequency by testing reaction times to a number of different types of two-and-three word phrases. In Experiment 1, we analyzed the RT (reaction time) differences between 15 pairs of adjective + noun combinations sharing the same adjective. In Experiment 2, we analyzed the RT values for the nouns in Experiment 1 to see the relationship between collocation frequency and word frequency and to make sure that the RT differences in Experiment 1 was not due to single-word frequency. Finally, in Experiment 3, we tested three different types of collocations. The results of these experiments showed that multi-word frequency exists independent of single word frequency. The results of this study provide evidence that multiword frequency exists, and thus supports the previous studies in the field with data from Turkish. Moreover, the data support Emergentist models and show that multiword frequency may provide a processing advantage in language comprehension.