Behavioral and Brain Sciences



A theory of lexical access in speech production


Willem J. M. Levelt a1, Ardi Roelofs a2 and Antje S. Meyer a3
a1 Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands pim@mpi.nl www.mpi.nl
a2 School of Psychology, University of Exeter, Washington Singer Laboratories, Exeter EX4 4QG, United Kingdom a.roelofs@exeter.ac.uk
a3 Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands asmeyer@mpi.nl

Abstract

Preparing words in speech production is normally a fast and accurate process. We generate them two or three per second in fluent conversation; and overtly naming a clear picture of an object can easily be initiated within 600 msec after picture onset. The underlying process, however, is exceedingly complex. The theory reviewed in this target article analyzes this process as staged and feedforward. After a first stage of conceptual preparation, word generation proceeds through lexical selection, morphological and phonological encoding, phonetic encoding, and articulation itself. In addition, the speaker exerts some degree of output control, by monitoring of self-produced internal and overt speech. The core of the theory, ranging from lexical selection to the initiation of phonetic encoding, is captured in a computational model, called WEAVER++. Both the theory and the computational model have been developed in interaction with reaction time experiments, particularly in picture naming or related word production paradigms, with the aim of accounting for the real-time processing in normal word production. A comprehensive review of theory, model, and experiments is presented. The model can handle some of the main observations in the domain of speech errors (the major empirical domain for most other theories of lexical access), and the theory opens new ways of approaching the cerebral organization of speech production by way of high-temporal-resolution imaging.


Key Words: articulation; brain imaging; conceptual preparation; lemma; lexical access; lexical concept; lexical selection; magnetic encephalography; morpheme; morphological encoding; phoneme; phonological encoding; readiness potential; self-monitoring; speaking; speech error; syllabification; weaver ++.


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