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The subjective familiarity of English homophones

Abstract

College students rated 828 homophonic words (words with the same pronunciation but different spellings) in terms of subjective familiarity. High interrater reliability was obtained, and the ratings correlated well with other published familiarity measures (r=.85). The familiarity ratings also correlated highly with log transforms of Kučera and Francis’s (1967) printed frequency measures (r= 75). However, many words of equal log frequency varied widely in rated familiarity, and vice versa. To determine which of these two factors was the better predictor of verbal performance, we orthogonally varied the two in a lexical decision task and found that, for words of moderate frequency, rated familiarity was by far the better predictor. We conclude that even though printed frequency and rated familiarity generally covary, printed frequency is a less reliable index of the underlying psychological construct, word familiarity.

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This research was supported by NSF Grant BNS 82-06461 to Princeton University, Sam Glucksberg, principal investigator.

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Kreuz, R.J. The subjective familiarity of English homophones. Memory & Cognition 15, 154–168 (1987). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03197027

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03197027

Keywords

  • Lexical Decision Task
  • Lexical Access
  • Word Type
  • Proper Noun
  • Familiarity Rating