Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 195–214 | Cite as

On the Nature of Semantic Constraints on Lexical Access

  • Andrea Weber
  • Matthew W. Crocker


We present two eye-tracking experiments that investigate lexical frequency and semantic context constraints in spoken-word recognition in German. In both experiments, the pivotal words were pairs of nouns overlapping at onset but varying in lexical frequency. In Experiment 1, German listeners showed an expected frequency bias towards high-frequency competitors (e.g., Blume, ‘flower’) when instructed to click on low-frequency targets (e.g., Bluse, ‘blouse’). In Experiment 2, semantically constraining context increased the availability of appropriate low-frequency target words prior to word onset, but did not influence the availability of semantically inappropriate high-frequency competitors at the same time. Immediately after target word onset, however, the activation of high-frequency competitors was reduced in semantically constraining sentences, but still exceeded that of unrelated distractor words significantly. The results suggest that (1) semantic context acts to downgrade activation of inappropriate competitors rather than to exclude them from competition, and (2) semantic context influences spoken-word recognition, over and above anticipation of upcoming referents.


Spoken-word recognition Semantic constraints Eye-tracking German 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for PsycholinguisticsNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Saarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany

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