, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 344-380

Timed picture naming in seven languages

Abstract

Timed picture naming was compared in seven languages that vary along dimensions known to affect lexical access. Analyses over items focused on factors that determine cross-language universals and cross-language disparities. With regard to universals, number of alternative names had large effects on reaction time within and across languages after target-name agreement was controlled, suggesting inhibitory effects from lexical competitors. For all the languages, word frequency and goodness of depiction had large effects, but objective picture complexity did not. Effects of word structure variables (length, syllable structure, compounding, and initial frication) varied markedly over languages. Strong cross-language correlations were found in naming latencies, frequency, and length. Other-language frequency effects were observed (e.g., Chinese frequencies predicting Spanish reaction times) even after within-language effects were controlled (e.g., Spanish frequencies predicting Spanish reaction times). These surprising cross-language correlations challenge widely held assumptions about the lexical locus of length and frequency effects, suggesting instead that they may (at least in part) reflect familiarity and accessibility at a conceptual level that is shared over languages.

This multifaceted collaborative project has required great effort by many people. The first four authors (listed in alphabetical order) took primary organization responsibility for the cross-language project as a whole, including development of the scoring system, organization of the database and/or statistical analysis, and interpretation of cross-language results in the final stages of the project. The next seven authors (in alphabetical order) each took primary responsibility for launching and/or supervising data collection within each of their respective language sites (Devescovi in collaboration with D’Amico for Italian, Herron in collaboration with Bates for English, Pechmann in collaboration with Jacobsen for German, and Pléh in collaboration with Székely for Hungarian). The remaining authors (in alphabetical order) made important contributions at various stages of the project within their own-language group. The project as a whole was supported by a grant to E.B. (NIDCD R01 DC00216, “Cross-linguistic studies of aphasia”). Developmental offshoots of the project have been partially supported by Grants NINDS P5022343 and NIDCD P50 DC01289. The Bulgarian portion of the project was also supported by a grant from the James McDonnell Foundation, and support for travel during the final phases of manuscript preparation was provided by a grant from NATO (LST.CLG.977502, “Comparative Studies of Language Development and Reading in Four Languages”). Each of the associated institutions has provided space for data collection and personnel time.