Tracking Lexical Access in Speech Production: Electrophysiological Correlates of Word Frequency and Cognate Effects


  • Strijkers Kristof
  • Costa Albert
  • Thierry Guillaume


  • ERP
  • Language production
  • Lexical activation
  • Time course

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The present study establishes an electrophysiological index of lexical access in speech production by exploring the locus of the frequency and cognate effects during overt naming. We conducted 2 event-related potential (ERP) studies with 16 Spanish-Catalan bilinguals performing a picture naming task in Spanish (L1) and 16 Catalan-Spanish bilinguals performing a picture naming task in Spanish (L2). Behavioral results showed a clear frequency effect and an interaction between frequency and cognate status. The ERP elicited during the production of high-frequency words diverged from the low-frequency ERP between 150 and 200 ms post-target presentation and kept diverging until voice onset. The same results were obtained when comparing cognate and noncognate conditions. Positive correlations were observed between naming latencies and mean amplitude of the P2 component following the divergence, for both the lexical frequency and the cognate effects. We conclude that lexical access during picture naming begins approximately 180 ms after picture presentation. Furthermore, these results offer direct electrophysiological evidence for an early influence of frequency and cognate status in speech production. The theoretical implications of these findings for models of speech production are discussed.

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