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Concept: Lexical item


Words are characterized by a variety of lexical and psychological properties, such as their part of speech, word-frequency, concreteness, or affectivity. In this study, we examine how these properties relate to a word’s connectivity in the mental lexicon, the structure containing a person’s knowledge of words. In particular, we examine the extent to which these properties display assortative mixing, that is, the extent to which words in the lexicon are more likely to be connected to words that share these properties. We investigated three types of word properties: 1) subjective word covariates: valence, dominance, arousal, and concreteness; 2) lexical information: part of speech; and 3) distributional word properties: age-of-acquisition, word frequency, and contextual diversity. We assessed which of these factors exhibit assortativity using a word association task, where the probability of producing a certain response to a cue is a measure of the associative strength between the cue and response in the mental lexicon. Our results show that the extent to which these aspects exhibit assortativity varies considerably, with a high cue-response correspondence on valence, dominance, arousal, concreteness, and part of speech, indicating that these factors correspond to the words people deem as related. In contrast, we find that cues and responses show only little correspondence on word frequency, contextual diversity, and age-of-acquisition, indicating that, compared to subjective and lexical word covariates, distributional properties exhibit only little assortativity in the mental lexicon. Possible theoretical accounts and implications of these findings are discussed.

Concepts: Lexical units, Vocabulary, Lexical item, Language, Word, Lexicon, Lexeme


Lexical competition is a hallmark of proficient, automatic word recognition. Previous research suggests that there is a delay before a new spoken word becomes engaged in this process, with sleep playing an important role. However, data from one method - the visual world paradigm - consistently show competition without a delay. We trained 42 adults and 40 children (aged 7-8) on novel word-object pairings, and employed this paradigm to measure the time-course of lexical competition. Fixations to novel objects upon hearing existing words (e.g., looks to the novel object biscal upon hearing “click on the biscuit”) were compared to fixations on untrained objects. Novel word-object pairings learned immediately before testing and those learned the previous day exhibited significant competition effects, with stronger competition for the previous day pairings for children but not adults. Crucially, this competition effect was significantly smaller for novel than existing competitors (e.g., looks to candy upon hearing “click on the candle”), suggesting that novel items may not compete for recognition like fully-fledged lexical items, even after 24h. Explicit memory (cued recall) was superior for words learned the day before testing, particularly for children; this effect (but not the lexical competition effects) correlated with sleep-spindle density. Together, the results suggest that different aspects of new word learning follow different time courses: visual world competition effects can emerge swiftly, but are qualitatively different from those observed with established words, and are less reliant upon sleep. Furthermore, the findings fit with the view that word learning earlier in development is boosted by sleep to a greater degree.

Concepts: Lexical item, Play, Lolita, Learning, Lexeme, Novel, Effects unit, Word


Past research has demonstrated interference effects when words are named in the context of multiple items that share a meaning. This interference has been explained within various incremental learning accounts of word production, which propose that each attempt at mapping semantic features to lexical items induces slight but persistent changes that result in cumulative interference. We examined whether similar interference-generating mechanisms operate during the mapping of lexical items to segments by examining the production of words in the context of others that share segments. Previous research has shown that initial-segment overlap amongst a set of target words produces facilitation, not interference. However, this initial-segment facilitation is likely due to strategic preparation, an external factor that may mask underlying interference. In the present study, we applied a novel manipulation in which the segmental overlap across target items was distributed unpredictably across word positions, in order to reduce strategic response preparation. This manipulation led to interference in both spoken (Exp. 1) and written (Exp. 2) production. We suggest that these findings are consistent with a competitive learning mechanism that applies across stages and modalities of word production.

Concepts: Lexical units, Name, Present, Semantics, Lexical item, Linguistics, Lexeme, Word


The frequency with which we use different words changes all the time, and every so often, a new lexical item is invented or another one ceases to be used. Beyond a small sample of lexical items whose properties are well studied, little is known about the dynamics of lexical evolution. How do the lexical inventories of languages, viewed as entire systems, evolve? Is the rate of evolution of the lexicon contingent upon historical factors or is it driven by regularities, perhaps to do with universals of cognition and social interaction? We address these questions using the Google Books N-Gram Corpus as a source of data and relative entropy as a measure of changes in the frequency distributions of words. It turns out that there are both universals and historical contingencies at work. Across several languages, we observe similar rates of change, but only at timescales of at least around five decades. At shorter timescales, the rate of change is highly variable and differs between languages. Major societal transformations as well as catastrophic events such as wars lead to increased change in frequency distributions, whereas stability in society has a dampening effect on lexical evolution.

Concepts: Sociology, Resonance, Lexeme, Linguistics, Lexical item, Language, Greek loanwords, Word


In an eye tracking experiment during reading we examined whether preview benefit could be observed from 2 words to the right of the currently fixated word if that word was the 2nd constituent of a spaced compound. The boundary paradigm (Rayner, 1975) was used to orthogonally manipulate whether participants saw an identity or nonword preview of the 1st (e.g., teddy) and 2nd constituent (e.g., bear) of a spaced compound located immediately beyond the boundary, respectively, words n + 1 and n + 2. Linear mixed-effects models revealed that participants gained an n + 2 preview benefit, such that they spent less time fixated on word n + 1 when given an identity preview of word n + 2. However, this effect was only observed if there was also an identity preview of word n + 1. Our findings suggest that the 2 constituent words of spaced compounds are processed as part of a larger lexical unit during natural reading. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Rights, Lexical units, Lexical item, Lexeme, Human rights, Compound, All rights reserved, Word


Compared to words that are new to a discourse, repeated words are produced with reduced acoustic prominence. Although these effects are often attributed to priming in the production system, the locus of the effect within the production system remains unresolved because, in natural speech, repetition often involves repetition of referents and lexical items simultaneously. Therefore, repetition reduction could be due to repeated mention of a referent or to repetition of a word or referring expression. In our study, we use an event description task to test whether repetition reduction is due to repetition of lexical items or to repeated mention of referents. The results show that repeated lexical items lead to reduced duration and intensity even in the absence of referent repetition, whereas repeated referents lead to reduced intensity alone. The general pattern suggests that repetition reduction is due most strongly to repetition of the lexical item, rather than repeated mention of the referent. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Production system, Set phrase, Sentence, Lexical units, Language, All rights reserved, Lexical item, Word


High and low tones on Swedish word stems are associated with different classes of suffixes. We tested the electrophysiological effects of high and low stem tones as well as tonally cued and uncued suffixes. Two different tasks were used involving either choosing the suffix-dependent meaning of the words, or pressing a button when the word ended. To determine whether effects were in fact due to association of tones with lexical material, delexicalized stimuli were also used. High tones in lexical items produced an increase in the P2 component in both tasks, interpreted as showing passive anticipatory attention allocated to the associated upcoming suffix. This effect was absent for delexicalized forms, where instead an N1 increase was found for high tones, indicating that the high pitch was unexpected in the absence of lexical material, and did not lead to anticipatory attention. A P600 effect was found for uncued high-associated suffixes in the semantic task, which was also where the largest increase was found in reaction times. This suggests that the tonal cues were most important when participants were required to process the meaning of the words.

Concepts: Inflection, Lexical item, Semiotics, Lexeme, Linguistics, Meaning of life, Word, Lexical units


Semantic richness refers to the amount of semantic information that a lexical item possesses. An important measure of semantic richness is the number of related senses that a word has (e.g., TABLE meaning a piece of furniture, a table of contents, to lay aside for future discussion, etc.). We measured electrophysiological response to lexical items with many and few related senses in monolingual English-speaking young adults. Participants performed lexical decision on each item. Overall, high-sense words elicited shorter response latencies and smaller N400 amplitudes than low-sense words. These results constitute further evidence of the importance of semantic richness in lexical processing, and provide evidence that processing of multiple related senses begins as early as 200 milliseconds after stimulus onset.

Concepts: Lexeme, Measurement, Set phrase, Psychometrics, Semiotics, Lexical units, Lexical item, Word