Memory & Cognition

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 458–470

The syllable’s role in word naming


DOI: 10.3758/BF03201122

Cite this article as:
Ferrand, L., Segui, J. & Humphreys, G.W. Mem Cogn (1997) 25: 458. doi:10.3758/BF03201122


In a series of experiments, the masked priming paradigm with very brief prime exposures was used to investigate the role of the syllable in the production of English. Experiment 1 (word naming task) showed a syllable priming effect for English words with clear initial syllable boundaries (such as BALCONY), but no effect with ambisyllabic words targets (such as BALANCE, where the /l/ belongs to both the first and the second syllables). Experiment 2 failed to show such syllable priming effects in the lexical decision task. Experiment 3 demonstrated that for words with clear initial syllable boundaries, naming latencies were faster only when primes formed the first syllable of the target, in comparison with a neutral condition. Experiment 4 showed that the two possible initial syllables of ambisyllabic words facilitated word naming to the same extent, in comparison with the neutral condition. Finally, Experiment 5 demonstrated that the syllable priming effect obtained for CV words with clear initial syllable boundaries (such as DIVORCE) was not due to increased phonological and/or orthographic overlap. These results, showing that the syllable constitutes a unit of speech production in English, are discussed in relation to the model of phonological and phonetic encoding proposed by Levelt and Wheeldon (1994).

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ludovic Ferrand
    • 1
    • 2
  • Juan Segui
    • 1
  • Glyn W. Humphreys
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Psychologie ExpérimentaleC.N.R.S. and Université René DescartesParisFrance
  2. 2.University of BirminghamBirminghamEngland

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