Lexical access for low- and high-frequency words in Hebrew

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The hypothesis that phonological mediation is involved to a greater extent in the recognition of low- than in the recognition of high-frequency words was examined using Hebrew. Hebrew has two forms of spelling, pointed and unpointed, which differ greatly in the extent of phonological ambiguity, with the unpointed spelling lacking almost all vowel information. A lexical decision task was employed using target words that had only one pronunciation whether pointed or unpointed. Targets were either pointed or unpointed and were preceded by a prime, which for word targets, was either semantically related or unrelated. The results indicated the following: First, the advantage of pointed over unpointed spelling was larger for low-frequency than for high-frequency words, suggesting a stronger phonological mediation for low-frequency words. Second, the size of the pointing effect was independent of word length, suggesting that phonology is obtained on the basis of the printed word as a whole, by looking it up in a phonological lexicon. Third, response latency to nonwords was not affected by the presence or absence of pointing, suggesting that failure to locate the entry corresponding to a letter string in a phonological lexicon results in a NO decision. Fourth, presence of a related prime was not found to compensate for absence of pointing, suggesting that the activation of a word's representation in the semantic lexicon does not aid access to its corresponding entry in the phonological lexicon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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