Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Homophone Effects in Visual Word Recognition Depend on Homophone Type and Task Demands

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Homophone Effects in Visual Word Recognition Depend on Homophone Type and Task Demands

Article excerpt

Abstract

This experiment examined how the characteristics of homophones and their mates influence homophone effects, as a function of task demands. Two types of homophones were presented: 1) low-frequency homophones with higher-frequency mates that are not animal names (e.g., maid - made), and 2) low-frequency homophones with mates that are, on average, of equivalent frequency and are animal names (e.g., foul - fowl). We observed a double dissociation: In the lexical decision task (LDT), there was a homophone effect for the first type of homophones but not for the second, whereas in the semantic categorization task (SCT) the opposite was true. These results suggest that in these tasks the effects of homophony arise when the homophone's mate creates competition in terms of the type of processing emphasized in the task, namely, orthographic processing in the LDT and semantic processing in the SCT.

Résumé Cette expérience a analysé la façon dont les caractéristiques des homophones et de leurs mots compagnons influencent les effets d'homophonie, en fonction des exigences liées à la tâche. Deux types d'homophones ont été présentés : (1) des homophones peu fréquents dont le mot compagnon est fréquent et n'est pas un nom d'animal (p. ex., maid - made), et (2) des homophones peu fréquents dont le mot compagnon est, en moyenne, de fréquence équivalente et est un nom d'animal (p. ex., foul fowl). Nous avons observé une double dissociation : dans la tâche de décision lexicale (TDL), un effet d'homophonie était présent pour le premier type d'homophones, mais pas pour le deuxième. Dans la tâche de catégorisation sémantique (TCS), le contraire s'est produit. Ces résultats indiquent que, dans ces tâches, les effets d'homophonie apparaissent lorsque le mot compagnon crée une concurrence en ce qui a trait au type de traitement mis en évidence par la tâche; à savoir, le processus orthographique dans la TDL et le processus sémantique dans la TCS.

Language researchers agree that visual word recognition involves orthographic, phonological, and semantic processing, along with complex interactions among these different types of processing. To better understand these interactions, researchers measure how the effects of a variable change in different tasks, such as lexical decision (LDT), semantic categorization (SCT), and naming (NT). The purpose of the present experiment was to shed more light on these interactions by evaluating the effects of homophony in different tasks.

Many studies have used homophones to examine interactions between phonological, orthographic, and semantic processing. Homophones are words like maid and made, for which one phonological representation corresponds to more than one spelling and more than one meaning. A number of researchers have reported that in the LDT responses are slower and/or more errorprone for homophones than for nonhomophonic control words (e.g., mess) (Edwards, Pexman, & Hudson, 2004; Ferrand & Grainger, 2003; Pexman, Lupker, & Jared, 2001; Pexman, Lupker, & Reggin, 2002; Rubenstein, Lewis, & Rubenstein, 1971). This result has generally been taken as evidence for phonological feedback to orthography. That is, when a homophone is presented, there is an initial activation of the word's orthographic representation followed by parallel activation of the word's phonological and semantic representations. There is then feedback activation from phonology to orthography (and from semantics to orthography). Because, for homophones, one pronunciation corresponds to multiple spellings, the feedback activation from phonology will provide activation to orthographic representations for both homophone spellings. This feedback delays responding to homophones relative to nonhomophonic control words, because with multiple orthographic representations activated additional time is necessary for the competition among those representations to be resolved. Evidence that homophone effects in LDT arise from orthographic competition and not from semantic competition comes from research showing that in the LDT responding is slowed for homophones like maid (compared to non-homophones like mess) but is facilitated for polysemous words like bank (compared to nonpolysemous words like lake) (Borowsky & Masson, 1996; Pexman & Lupker, 1999). …

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