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"Tracking Lexical Access in Spoken Word Recognition"

Michael K. Tanenhaus
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Department of Linguistics
University of Rochester

In recent work my colleagues and I have been monitoring eye movements as listeners follow instructions to move objects or pictures of objects in order to trace the time course of lexical access in continuous speech. I'll briefly review recently published work showing that a simple mapping function from activation levels in a computational model (TRACE) to fixations accounts for the frequency and timing of fixations to the referent of a target word, and its competitors (Allopenna, Magnuson & Tanenhaus, 1998, JML), allowing one to use eye movements to track the micro structure of lexical access on a ms time scale. I'll then review more recent work from this project, including: (a) research using an artificial lexicon to examine the development of competitor effects in lexical access; (b) studies examining the role of gender constraints on lexical access in French, which show that grammatical gender constrains the initial candidate set only when it results in a strong local form-based co-occurrence; and (c) studies examining whether there is a short word bias independent of frequency (e.g., is the lexical representation of "can" initially more activated than the lexical representation or "candy" when the spoken word is "candy."