, 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.