Morphology and recognition of meaning: A study of deceptively transparent words

    • Présentatrice(s) ou présentateur(s)

    The purpose of this study is to reveal the association between English morphology and deceptive English words used by none native speakers of English. Deceptive words are those which people think they know but really do not know due to the strange morphological nature (misleading forms) and the lack of consistent system of prefixes, suffixes and infixes (e.g., deadwood, infallible, shortcoming, misgiving, etc.). That is to say, certain English prefixes could generate various unsystematic meanings like « mis- » in misgiving and misunderstand or mislead. Even the suffixes: « -ed » and  » –ing » are misunderstood too. To achieve this objective, two experiments were applied on 40  EST (English for Science and Technology)  ESL adult learners to measure their acquisition, perception and recognition of a number of vocabulary items with a number of misleading morphological structures. Some of these items were knowingly chosen from ‘deceptively transparent words’.  Subjecting the data collected for acquisition parameters like context and spectrums of meaning, we found that word-formation and morphology can lead to wrong recognition and acquisition of transparent words which in turn might generate faked linguistic confidence in language use and usage. Statistically speaking, our data revealed the vast majority of our ESL learners can be deceived by certain English structures and form of words. On top of that, the study revealed that deceptive words due to their morphology resulted in unconscious overgeneralization and misinterpretation of language production both in use and usage.  Our findings were supported by both descriptive and inferential statistics. The study is concluded with a number of practical and research recommendations.


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