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Phonological and conceptual activation in speech comprehension
NORRIS, D., Cutler, A., McQueen, J. & BUTTERFIELD, S.
Cognitive Psychology 53(2), 146-193
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We propose that speech comprehension involves the activation of token representations of the phonological forms of current lexical hypotheses, separately from the ongoing construction of a conceptual interpretation of the current utterance. In a series of cross-modal priming experiments, facilitation of lexical decision responses to visual target words (e.g., time) was found for targets that were semantic associates of auditory prime words (e.g., date) when the primes were isolated words, but not when the same primes appeared in sentence contexts. Identity priming (e.g., faster lexical decisions to visual date after spoken date than after an unrelated prime) appeared, however, both with isolated primes and with primes in prosodically neutral sentences. Associative priming in sentence contexts only emerged when sentence prosody involved contrastive accents, or when sentences were terminated immediately after the prime. Associative priming is therefore not an automatic consequence of speech processing. In no experiment was there associative priming from embedded words (e.g., sedate-time), but there was inhibitory identity priming (e.g., sedate-date) from embedded primes in sentence contexts. Speech comprehension therefore appears to involve separate distinct activation both of token phonological word representations and of conceptual word representations. Furthermore, both of these types of representation are distinct from the long-term memory representations of word form and meaning.