Phonotactics, neighborhood activation, and lexical access for spoken words

Michael S. Vitevitch, Paul A. Luce, David B. Pisoni, Edward T. Auer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

146 Scopus citations


Probabilistic phonotactics refers to the relative frequencies of segments and sequences of segments in spoken words. Neighborhood density refers to the number of words that are phonologically similar to a given word. Despite a positive correlation between phonotactic probability and neighborhood density, nonsense words with high probability segments and sequences are responded to more quickly than nonsense words with low probability segments and sequences, whereas real words occurring in dense similarity neighborhoods are responded to more slowly than real words occurring in sparse similarity neighborhoods. This contradiction may be resolved by hypothesizing that effects of probabilistic phonotactics have a sublexical focus and that effects of similarity neighborhood density have a lexical focus. The implications of this hypothesis for models of spoken word recognition are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-311
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Neighborhood activation
  • Probabilistic phonotactics
  • Spoken word recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing

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