, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 295-331
Date: 31 Aug 2006

Syllable frequency in lexical decision and naming of English words

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The importance of phonological syllables in recognition and pronunciation of visual words has been demonstrated in languages with a high degree of spelling-sound correspondence. In Spanish, multisyllabic words with frequent first syllables are named more quickly than those with less frequent first syllables, but receive slower lexical decisions. The latter effect is attributed to lexical competition from other words beginning with the same syllable. We examined syllable frequency effects on naming and lexical decision for 3029 visually presented words in English, a language with a high degree of irregularity in spelling/sound relationships, and in which phonological syllables are less clearly marked in printed words. The results showed facilitative effects of syllable frequency in both tasks, and these were stronger when syllables were defined orthographically than phonologically. The results suggest that activation of lexical candidates based on a syllabic code does not occur rapidly enough to interfere with lexical decision in English.