Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 467–482 | Cite as

Contrasting Grammatical and Lexical Determiners

  • Violaine Michel Lange
  • Maria Messerschmidt
  • Kasper Boye


This paper investigates the difference between the production of grammatical determiners and lexical determiners in the production of adjective-noun phrases (NPs) in Danish. Models of sentence processing (Garrett in Psychology of learning and motivation, Academic press, New York, pp 133–177, 1975; Bock in J Mem Lang 26(2):119–137, 1987) suggest that the phonological encoding stage of grammatical items can only be specified once lexical items have been phonologically encoded. In their usage-based linguistic theory of the grammar-lexicon distinction, Boye and Harder (Lang 88(1):1–44, 2012) propose that this later encoding of grammatical elements is motivated by two specific features of grammatical elements. The first feature, dependence, is that grammatical items (morphemes, words, constructions) cannot be produced in isolation, but are always dependent on a lexical host item. This feature entails a more complex processing which might lead to longer reaction times when comparing the production of NPs with a grammatical determiner to a lexical one. Additionally, a more complex processing might lead to a lower accuracy rate for the grammatical condition relative to the lexical one. The second feature, low prominence, is that grammatical items code background information and therefore cannot convey the main point of a linguistic message. Less focus on grammatical elements might lead to a lower accuracy rate for the production of grammatical elements relative to lexical ones. Those predictions were tested in a task comparing the production of Danish grammatical determiners (indefinite articles) with the production of lexical ones (numerals, which are homonymous with the articles except for a stress difference) in similar contexts. Group-based analyses were performed in order to take inter-individual differences into account. The results show that the two features as proposed by Boye and Harder (2012) are only revealed for the fastest speakers group but not the slower ones.


Speech production Grammar Lexicon Inter-individual differences 



This study was supported by the University of Copenhagen Excellence Programme for Interdisciplinary Research (Project title: “PROGRAM”—Information PROminence and GRAMmar in mind and brain).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards

This work complies with Ethical Standards from Copenhagen University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Violaine Michel Lange
    • 1
  • Maria Messerschmidt
    • 1
  • Kasper Boye
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Nordic Studies and LinguisticsCopenhagen UniversityCopenhagenDenmark

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