The lexical restructuring hypothesis and graph theoretic analyses of networks based on random lexicons

Thomas M. Gruenenfelder, David B. Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: The mental lexicon of words used for spoken word recognition has been modeled as a complex network or graph. Do the characteristics of that graph reflect processes involved in its growth (M. S. Vitevitch, 2008) or simply the phonetic overlap between similar-sounding words? Method: Three pseudolexicons were generated by randomly selecting phonological segments from a fixed set. Each lexicon was then modeled as a graph, linking words differing by one segment. The properties of those graphs were compared with those of a graph based on real English words. Results: The properties of the graphs built from the pseudolexicons matched the properties of the graph based on English words. Each graph consisted of a single large island and a number of smaller islands and hermits. The degree distribution of each graph was better fit by an exponential than by a power function. Each graph showed short path lengths, large clustering coefficients, and positive assortative mixing. Conclusion: The results suggest that there is no need to appeal to processes of growth or language acquisition to explain the formal properties of the network structure of the mental lexicon. These properties emerged because the network was built based on the phonetic overlap of words.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-609
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009


  • Complex systems
  • Graph theory
  • Lexical restructuring
  • Mental lexicon
  • Spoken word recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing

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