Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Ehrhart, Sabine

1 Issue per year

Covered by:
Elsevier - SCOPUS
Clarivate Analytics - Emerging Sources Citation Index

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

The Role of Semantics in Spanish Word Recognition: an Insight from Lexical Decision and Categorization Tasks

Cristina Izura / Natividad Hernández-Muñoz
Published Online: 2017-10-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0025


This study examines the factors affecting word recognition in a language with a consistent system to map letters into sounds; Spanish. The influence of semantics on the recognition of words in languages with inconsistent mappings, such as English, is well documented. Not much is known for other languages. A lexical decision task and two category verification tasks with varying levels of semantic complexity were used. In contrast to English, none of the semantic variables entered into the analyses had a significant impact on lexical decision latencies or errors. Imageability showed an influence on responses to both category verification tasks while the effect of connectivity was marginally significant in the category verification task with the greatest semantic complexity. Results indicate that word recognition decisions can be made without the involvement of central components of the semantic system. The role of semantics in word recognition in languages with consistent spelling systems will be discussed.

Keywords: imageability; connectivity; number of associates; age of acquisition; word recognition


  • Algarabel, Salvador. (1996). Indices de interes psicolinguistico de 1917 palabras castellanas. Cognitiva, 8, 43-88.Google Scholar

  • Alija, Maria, & Fernando Cuetos. (2006). Efectos de las variables lexico-semanticas en el reconocimiento visual de las palabras. Psicothema, 18, 485-491. Google Scholar

  • Alonso, Maria Angeles, Angel Fernandez, Emiliano Diez, & Maria Soledad Beato. (2004). Indices de produccion de falso recuerdo y falso reconocimiento para 55 listas de palabras en castellano. Psicothema, 16, 357-362. Google Scholar

  • Azuma, Tamiko, & Guy Van Orden. (1997). Why SAFE is better than FAST: The relatedness of a word’s meanings affects lexical decision times. Journal of Memory and Language, 36, 484-504. Google Scholar

  • Balota, David, & James Chumbley. (1984). Are lexical decisions good measures of lexical access? The role of word frequency in the neglected decision stage. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 10, 340-357. Google Scholar

  • Balota, David, Michael Cortese, Susan Sergent-Marshall, Daniel Spieler, & Melvin Yap. (2004). Visual word recognition of single-syllable words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 283-316. Google Scholar

  • Balota, David, Melvin Yap, Michael Cortese, Keith Hutchison, Brett Kessler, Bjorn Loftis, James Neely, Douglas Nelson, Greg Simpson, & Rebecca Treiman. (2007). The English Lexicon Project. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 445-459. Google Scholar

  • Borowsky, Ron, & Michael Masson. (1996). Semantic ambiguity effects in word identification. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 22, 63-85. Google Scholar

  • Bourassa, Derrick, & Derek Besner. (1998). When do nonwords activate semantics? Implications for models in visual word recognition. Memory & Cognition, 26, 61-74. Google Scholar

  • Brysbaert, Marc, & Mandy Ghyselinck. (2006). The effect of age of acquisition: Partly frequency related, partly frequency independent. Visual Cognition, 13, 992-1011. Google Scholar

  • Brysbaert, Marc, Marielle Lange, & Ilse Van Wijnendaele. (2000). The effects of age-of-acquisition and frequency-ofoccurrence in visual word recognition: Further evidence from the Dutch language. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 12, 65-68. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Brysbaert, Marc, Ilse Van Wijnendaele, & Simon De Deyne. (2000). Age-of-acquisition effects in semantic processing tasks. Acta Psychological, 104, 215-226. Google Scholar

  • Carroll, John, & Margaret White. (1973). Word frequency and age of acquisition as determiners of picture naming latency. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 25, 85-95. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cedrus Corporation. (1996). SuperLab Pro (Version 2.0.4) [computer software]. San Pedro, CA: Cedrus Corporation. Google Scholar

  • Cohen, Jacob, Patricia Cohen, Stephen G. West, & Leona S. Aiken. (2003). Applied multiple regression/ correlation analysis for the behavioural sciences (3rd edn.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Google Scholar

  • Coltheart, Max, Eileen Davelaar, John. Torfi Jonasson, & Derek Besner. (1977). Access to the internal lexicon. In S. Dornic (ed.), Attention & Performance VI (pp.535-555). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Google Scholar

  • Cortese, Michael. J., & Maya M. Khanna. (2007). Age of acquisition predicts naming and lexical-decision performance above and beyond 22 other predictor variables: An analysis of 2,342 words. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 1072-1082. Google Scholar

  • Cuetos, Fernando, Maria Glez-Nosti, Analia Barbon, & Marc Brysbaert. (2011). SUBTLEX-ESP: Spanish word frequencies based on film subtitles. Psicológica, 32, 133-143. Google Scholar

  • Cutler, Anne. (1981). Making up materials as a confounded nuisance: or will we be able to run any psycholinguistic experiments at all in 1990? Cognition, 10, 65-70. Google Scholar

  • De Deyne, Simon, Daniel. J. Navarro, & Gert Storms. (2012). Better explanations of lexical and semantic cognition using networks derived from continued rather than single-word associations. Behavior Research Methods DOI 10.3758/s13428-012-0260-7 CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Diependaele, Kevin, Marc Brysbaert, & Peter Neri. (2012). How noisy is lexical decision? Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1- 9. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Dominguez, Alberto, Manuel De Vega, & Fernando Cuetos. (1997). Lexical inhibition from syllabic units in visual word recognition, Language and Cognitive Processes, 12, 401-422. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ovid SP Gateway. (2012). July 26, http://ovidsp.uk.ovid.comGoogle Scholar

  • Ellis, Andrew W., & Matthew A. Lambon Ralph, (2000). Connectionist networks can provide a natural account of age of acquisition effects in adult lexical processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 26, 1103-1123. Google Scholar

  • Evans, Gemma, Matthew A. Lambon Ralph, & Anna M. Woollams. (2012). What’s in a word? A parametric study of semantic influences on visual word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19, 325-331. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Forster, Kenneth I. (1976). Accessing the mental lexicon. In F. Wales & E. Walker (eds.), New approaches to language mechanisms (pp.257-287). Amsterdam: North Holland. Google Scholar

  • Forster, Kenneth I., & Jo Hector. (2002). Cascaded versus noncascaded models of lexical and semantic processing: the turple effect. Memory & Cognition, 30, 1106-1117. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ghyselink, Mandy, Roel Custers, & Marc Brysbaert. (2004). The effect of age of acquisition in visual word processing: Further evidence for the semantic hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 550-554. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gibson, Eleanor J., Carol H. Bishop, William Schiff, & Jesse Smith. (1964). Comparisons of meaningfulness and pronunciability as grouping principles in the perception and retention of verbal material. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 173-182. Google Scholar

  • Gibson, Eleanor. J., Anne Pick, Harry Osser, & Marcia Hammond. (1962). The role of grapheme-phoneme correspondence in the perception of words. American Journal of Psychology, 75, 554-570. Google Scholar

  • Gilhooly, Ken J., & Mary L. M. Gilhooly. (1980). The validity of age-of-acquisition ratings. British Journal of Psychology, 71, 105-110. Google Scholar

  • Gonzalez-Nosti, Maria, Analia Barbon, Javier Rodriguez-Ferreiro, & Fernando Cuetos. (2014). Effects of the psycholinguistic variables on the lexical decision task in Spanish: a study with 2,765 words. Behavior Research Methods, 46, 517-525. Google Scholar

  • Grondin, Ray, Stephe J. Lupker, & Ken McRae. (2009). Shared features dominate semantic richness effects for concrete concepts. Journal of Memory & Language, 60, 1-19. Google Scholar

  • Groot, Annette. M. B. (1989). Representational aspects of word imageability and word frequency as assessed through word association. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 15, 824-845. Google Scholar

  • Hino, Yasushi, & Stephen J. Lupker. (1996). Effects of polysemy in lexical decision and naming: An alternative to lexical access accounts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 22, 1331-1356. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hernandez-Munoz, Natividad, & Cristina Izura. (2011, June). Definiendo el espacio semántico: La conectividad. Paper presented at the IX Congreso de Linguistica General, Valladolid, Spain. Google Scholar

  • Izura, Cristina,& Andrew W. Ellis. (2002). Age of acquisition effects in word recognition and production in first and second language. Psicológica, 23, 245-281. Google Scholar

  • Izura, Cristina, & Andrew W. Ellis. (2004). Age of acquisition effects in translation judgement tasks. Journal of Memory and Language, 50, 165-181. Google Scholar

  • James, Carlton. T. (1975). The role of semantic information in lexical decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1, 130-136. Google Scholar

  • Kroll, Judith. F. K., & Jill S. Merves. (1986). Lexical access for concrete and abstract words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 12, 92-107. Google Scholar

  • Lacruz, Isabel, & Jocelyn R. Folk. (2004). Feedforward ad feedback consistency effects for high-and low-frequency words in lexical decision and naming. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology, 57, 1261-1284. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lambon Ralph, Matthew A., & Sheeba Ehsan. (2006). Age of acquisition effects depend on the mapping between representations and the frequency of occurrence: Empirical and computational evidence. Visual Cognition, 13, 928-948. Google Scholar

  • Lupker, Stephen J., & Penny M. Pexman. (2010). Making things difficult in the lexical decision: the impact of pseudohomophones and transposed-letter nonwords on frequency and semantic priming effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 36, 1267-1289. Google Scholar

  • Melvin, J. Yap, & David A. Balota. (2009). Visual word recognition of multisyllabic words. Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 502-529. Google Scholar

  • Morita, Aiko, & Katsuo Tamaoka. (2002). Phonological involvement in the processing of Japanese at the lexical sentence levels. Reading & Writing, 15, 633-651. Google Scholar

  • Morrison, Catriona, M., & Andrew W. Ellis. (2000). Real age of acquisition effects in word naming and lexical decision. British Journal of Psychology, 91, 167-180. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Nelson, Douglas L., Cathy L. McEvoy, & Thomas A. Schreiber. (1998). The University of South Florida word association, rhyme, and word fragment norms. http://www.usf.edu/FreeAssociation/. Google Scholar

  • Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J., & Nancy L. Leech. (2004). Post hoc power: A concept whose time has come. Understanding Statistics, 3, 201-230. Google Scholar

  • Ovid SP Gateway. (2012). July 26, available at: http://ovidsp.uk.ovid.com Google Scholar

  • Pecher, Diane. (2001). Perception is a two-way junction: Feedback semantics in word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8, 545-551. Google Scholar

  • Perez, Miguel Angel. (2007). Age of acquisition persists as the main factor in picture naming when cumulative word frequency and frequency trajectory are controlled. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 32-42. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Perez, Miguel Angel, Jose Ramon Alameda, & Fernando Cuetos. (2003). Frecuencia, longitud y vecindad ortografica de las palabras de 3 a 16 letras del Diccionario de la Lengua Espanola (RAE, 1992). Revista Electrónica de Metodología Aplicada, 8, 1-10. Google Scholar

  • Pexman, P. M., G. G. Holyk, & M. H. Monfils. (2003). Number-of-features effects and semantic processing. Memory & Cognition, 31, 842-855. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Plaut, David, C., & James R. Booth. (2000). Individual and developmental differences in semantic priming: empirical and computational support for a single-mechanism account of lexical processing. Psychological Review, 107, 786-823. Google Scholar

  • Richardson, John. T. E. (1976). The effects of stimulus attributes upon latency of word recognition. British Journal of Psychology, 67, 315-325. Google Scholar

  • Shibahara, Naoki, Marco Zorzi, Martin, P. Hill, Taeko Wydell, & Brian Butterworth. (2003). Semantic effects in word naming: evidence from English and Japanese Kanji. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56, 263-286. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Steyvers, Mark, & Joshua B. Tenenbaum. (2005). The large-scale structure of semantic networks: statistical analyses and a model of semantic growth. Cognitive Science, 29, 41-78. Google Scholar

  • Stone, Gregory O., Mickie Vanhoy, & Guy C. Van Orden. (1997). Perception is a two-way Street: Feedforward and feedback phonology in visual Word recognition. Journal of Memory & Language, 36, 337-359. Google Scholar

  • Strain, Eamon, Karalyn Patterson, & Mark S. Seidenberg. (1995). Semantic effects in single-word naming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 21, 1140-1154. Google Scholar

  • Ullman, Michael T., Robbin A. Miranda, Michelle L. Travers. (2008). Sex differences in the neurocognition of language, In: Becker JB, Berkley, K. J., Geary, N., et al. (Eds.). Sex on the Brain: From genes to behaviour. Pp. 291-309. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Van Casteren, Marteen, & Matthew H. Davis. (2007). Match: a program to assist in matching the conditions of factorial experiments. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 973-978. Google Scholar

  • Van Orden, Guy C., & Stephen D. Goldinger. (1994). Interdependence of form and function in cognitive systems explains perception of printed words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 20, 1269-1291. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wilson, Maximiliano A., Fernando Cuetos, Rob A. I. Davies, & Cristina Burani. (2013). Revisiting age-of-acquisition effects in Spanish visual Word recognition: the role of item imageability. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 39, 6-11. Google Scholar

  • Yap, Melvin J., David A. Balota, Michael J. Cortese, & Jason M. Watson. (2006). Single- versus dual-process model of lexical decision performance: insights from response time distributional analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 1324-1344. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Yap, Melvin J., Penny M. Pexman, Michele Wellsby, Ian S. Hargreaves, & Mark J. Huff. (2012). An abundance of riches: cross-task comparisons of semantic richness effects in visual word recognition. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6: 72. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article

Received: 2014-10-10

Accepted: 2017-07-20

Published Online: 2017-10-31

Published in Print: 2017-10-26

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 500–515, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0025.

Export Citation

© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in