Attentional Requirements for the Selection of Words From Different Grammatical Categories


  • Ayora Pauline
  • Janssen Niels
  • Dell'Acqua Roberto
  • Alario F. -Xavier

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Two grammatical classes are commonly distinguished in psycholinguistic research. The open-class includes content words such as nouns, whereas the closed-class includes function words such as determiners. A standing issue is to identify whether these words are retrieved through similar or distinct selection mechanisms. We report a comparative investigation of the allocation of attentional resources during the retrieval of words from these 2 classes. Previous studies used a psychological-refractory-period paradigm to establish that open-class word retrieval is supported by central attention mechanisms. We applied the same logic to closed-class word retrieval. French native speakers named pictures with determiner noun phrases while they concurrently identified the pitch of an auditory tone. The ease of noun and determiner retrieval was manipulated independently. Results showed that both manipulations affected picture naming and tone discrimination responses in similar ways. This suggests the involvement of central attentional resources in word production, irrespective of word class. These results argue against the commonly held hypothesis that closed-class retrieval is an automatic consequence of syntactic specific processes.

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