Distinctiveness of spoken word context predicts visual lexical decision time

Richard C Shillcock, Scott McDonald, Peter Hipwell, Will Lowe

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

We review various dimensions along which words differ and which, sometimes as part of a word recognition model, have been claimed to predict performance in the visual lexical decision task. Models of word recognition have typically involved inadequate, or non-existent, semantic representations and have dealt with words existing in isolation from any context. We propose an alternative perspective in which it is the relationships between words - reflecting usage and meaning - rather than the discrete entities themselves, that are fundamental to lexical processing. We present Contextual Distinctiveness (CD), a corpus-derived measure of the plurality of the different content-word contexts in which a word occurs in speech, and demonstrate that it is a significant predictor of response times in a simple visual lexical decision task. We argue that LDT effects previously attributed to Age of Acquisition and word frequency should be reinterpreted in terms of CD. As well as subsuming a number of other lexical variables, we detail further advantages of CD, in terms of computational tractability, objectivity, relation to real language, and relation to formal linguistics.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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