Academic journal article College Student Journal

Different Types of Word Links in the Mental Lexicon

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Different Types of Word Links in the Mental Lexicon

Article excerpt

This essay mainly discusses the following issue: Do people from different cultures store English words in their minds in different ways; and what elements determine people's mental lexicon? The findings from my experiment showed that cultural factors only play a minor role on this stage. The leading dominants in this light are the linguistic elements such as the phonological structure, the syntactic category, the morphological structure, and the presence of semantically related words as Carroll has pointed out. Further, I discovered in my studies the participants from China (Mainland) responded to the prompt words more syntagmatically, which indicates that they seem to be ignorant of lexical knowledge. In this light, this essay presents solutions to make ESL learners in or from China aware of the word knowledge such as semantic relations in their mental lexicon. It is hoped that this exploration will be of some help to them with their vocabulary improvement.


According to Aitchison (1987), a network in relation to the mental lexicon simply refers to an interconnected system. In the field of psycholinguistics, she argues, researchers mostly agree that "a network of some type is inevitable" (Aitchison, 1987, p. 72). Early work on this inevitable network in mental lexicon shows that there exists a particular link between one particular word and another. In my view, this argument presents us the significance of a more careful exploration of the links between the individual words. For example, in the ESL realm, if we can learn more about lexicon storage, we may become more sensible to access the kingdom of the whole language. In pedagogy, this awareness can facilitate teacher, say in an ESL classroom, to teach vocabulary more effectively. In this respect, this essay will explore an overall organization of the links between the particular words. Also, this article will discuss the following questions. How are words stored in people's minds? What elements influence people's lexical storage? Or, do people from different cultures store their words, say English words, in the same way?

Types of Word Links and the Word Association Test

Aitchison (1987) points out that early studies of semantic networks indicate that connections between words are formed by thinking habits. If words often appear together, the frequently connected items "develop extra strong ties" (Aitchison, 1987, p. 73) between these co-occurring words. Further, these close links are often revealed by means of word association experiments, also called word association tests.

In terms of types of word links in the mental lexicon, Jenkins (1970) makes a relevant test for four prompt words butterfly, hungry, red and salt. The ten commonest responses in this test, shown in following table, encompass several different types of connections between the stimulus words. Jenkins singles out only four of them as 1) Co-ordination; 2) Collocation; 3) Super-ordination, and 4) Synonymy. However, Aitchison (1987) argues that words seem to be organized in semantic fields, and within these fields, there are two types of links: connections between co-ordinates and collocation links. She observes that "links between hyponymy and their super-ordinates are generally somewhat weak" (Aitchison, 1987, p. 85). But a new classification of the types of word links in mental lexicon appeared recently. According to Wolter (2001), the responses of prompt words in word association experiment can be classified into three types: paradigmatic response, syntagmatic and clang responses. By this new standard, Jenkins's co-ordination, super-ordination and synonymy are all paradigmatic, and collocation is viewed as a syntagmatic relation. Clang responses, which focus on phonological connections between words, seem to be neglected by previous researchers. But in reality, this neglected response exists as Wolter's example has indicated, like the response bog to the stimulus word dog (dog--bog). …

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