Word Production

Spoken and written word production involve the reverse of the processing steps in word perception: conceptual processing to lexical to phonological or orthographic. Motor execution stages involved in articulation and writing would complete the output process.

More research has been devoted to speech production than to writing. In the domain of speech production, a distinction has been made between a nonverbal conceptual representation of the message to be expressed and a semantic representation that is specific to words. Speech production begins with the formulation of the nonverbal conceptual representation, followed by two steps of lexical access. In the first step, a lexical-semantic representation is selected (which also contains syntactic information about the word), and in the second step the phonological form corresponding to the semantic representation is accessed. In a strict modular approach with nonoverlap-ping stages, only one lexical-semantic representation is selected before processing proceeds to the phonological level. Other approaches assume what is termed "cascaded processing,'' in which activation spreads from the lexical-semantic level to the phonological level before a single lexical-semantic representation is chosen. Suppose that the speaker wishes to communicate the concept "cat." The conceptual representation for cat would serve to activate most highly the lexical-semantic representation for "cat" but would also activate related lexical-semantic representations to some extent, such as "dog" and "lion," because of shared conceptual features. In the cascaded model, the phonemes in "dog" and "lion" would also be activated to some extent, even though "cat" might eventually be the most activated at the lexical-semantic level. In a cascaded model with feedback, the activation of the phonemes in "cat" would cause backwards activation of words that shared phonemes with "cat," such as "mat," even though such words had no semantic relationship to "cat."

In writing, as in reading, some have argued that the orthographic forms are dependent on the phonological forms. That is, the writer is assumed to have followed similar steps in written word production as in spoken word production and has accessed a phonological form. This phonological form is then translated into a written form through a phoneme-grapheme conversion process. However, it is even clearer in writing than in reading that orthographic knowledge specific to individual words (i.e., a lexical orthographic representation) is needed for correct spelling. Even for a word with a regular correspondence between sounds and letters, there may be several alternative "regular" spellings (i.e., spellings that follow typical sound-to-letter conversion patterns in English). For example, "kat" or "cat" would be regular spellings for "cat," and "leaf," "leaph," "leef," and "leeph" would be regular spellings for "leaf." Thus, producing the correct spelling depends on having stored knowledge about the sequences of letters in words.

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