The Time Course of Lexical Access in Speech Production: A Study of Picture Naming

  • Levelt W
  • Schriefers H
  • Vorberg D
 et al. 
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Lexical access in object naming involves the activation ofaset of lexical candidates, the selection of the appropriate (or target) item, and the phonological encoding of that item. Two views of lexical access in naming are compared. From one view, the 2-stage theory, phonological activation follows selection of the target item and is restricted to that item. From the other view, which is most explicit in activation-spreading theories, all activated lexical candidates are phonologically activated to some extent. A series of experiments is reported in which subjects performed acoustic lexical decision during object naming at different stimulus-onset asynchronies. The experiments show semantic activation of lexical candidates and phonological activation of the target item, but no phonological activation of other semantically activated items. This supports the 2-stage view. More­ over, a mathematical model embodying the 2-stage view is fully compatible with the lexical deci­ sion data obtained at different stimulus-onset asynchronies. One of a speakers core skills is to lexicalize the concepts intended for expression. Lexical ization proceeds at a rate of two to three words per second in normal spontaneous speech, but doubling this rate is possible and not exceptional. The skill of lexicalizing a content word involves two components. The first one is to select the appropriate lexical item from among some tens of thousands of alternatives in the mental lexicon. The second one is to phonologically encode the selected item, that is, to retrieve its sound form, to create a phonological represen­ tation for the item in its context, and to prepare its articulatory program. An extensive review of the literature on lexicalization can be found in Levelt (1989). This article addresses only one aspect of lexicalization, namely its time course. In particular, we examine whether the selection of an item and its phonologi­ cal encoding can be considered to occur in two successive, non­ overlapping stages. We acknowledge the invaluable contributions of John Nagengast and Johan Weustink, who programmed the computer-based experi­ ments; of Ger Desserjer and Hans Fransen, who ran the experiments and assisted in data analysis; and of Inge Tarim, who provided graphi­ cal assistance.

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  • Wllem J M Levelt

  • Herbert Schriefers

  • Dirk Vorberg

  • Jaap Havinga

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