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Word recognition essay

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What factors influence how easily a particular spoken word is recognised? How and when do these factors play a role in the process of spoken word recognition, according to the cohort model?

Recognition is defined in the dictionary as “to know again from ones previous experience”. Spoken word recognition is an area of psychology that has had much research investigated into it, not only in recognising particular words printed and spoken but also how all the information that relates to a word becomes available. Many studies have been conducted and many theories have been produced to explain issues in spoken word recognition. One Model that has been created is The Cohort Model that was proposed by Marslen-Wilson (1973,1975). This model is a localist model and was founded around the principle that as we hear words in speech, we set up a cohort of probable items the word could be. Then items are eradicated from this elected list and one is chosen to be the correct word. This model suggests that the cohort of probable items is triggered on the basis of approximately the first 100-150 ms of the speech input.

Through extensive research it has been revealed that numerous factors manipulate how easily a particular spoken word is recognised.

One factor that is generally alleged to have a large impact on how easily a word is recognised is context effects.

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Another factor found to influence how a word is recognised is the meaning-level characteristics. It has been proven that the concreteness of a words meaning has been shown to influence lexical decisions, which means that concrete words have an advantage over less-concrete words. A study conducted by Balota, Ferraro and Connor in 1991 showed that words with concrete meanings are recognised more rapidly than those with more abstract meanings Another factor which is linked to the topic of meaning-level characteristics is the imageability of a word. It is believed that words that are concrete have a larger and quicker recognition than words, which are abstract. This is believed to be because the person can “see” an image of the word and relate the word they are hearing to an image whereas this is not possible for abstract words. One of the Cohort Model’s principle claims is that there is early activation of multiple semantic representations. This means that very early on in the process of recognition of a word, does the meaning of the word have an effect.

Semantic priming is an additional influence over the recognition of spoken words, which is believed to have quite a large effect. This refers to the process by which identification of a word is made easier by having a word presented before it, which is analogous in connotation. Many studies

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Word superiority effect is another influence over word recognition. This is the belief that letters that are part of a familiar word are perceived faster than if for example the letter was on its own. Although this theory is referring mainly to written word recognition, it can be applied to spoken language by

Overall there are many factors that are believed to have a large impact on the recognition of spoken words. There are also many other factors such as pronunciation of words and neighbour effects, which have however had less research investigated into them. The Cohort Model is a fascinating and clearly well defined theory on word recognition and is efficient in accounting for the significance of numerous topics ranging from word-initial information and also the rapid temporal nature of speech recognition. However the Cohort Model fails to account for issues such as word-initial cohort errors whereas models such as the Trace Model takes account of this. The objective of language comprehension is not to comprehend individual independent words, but to understand the semantics of the words, as they are perceived in discourse. Much more research needs to be conducted into the area of word recognition in spoken language to fully understand how words are recognised and a new theory that includes issues collectively from many different theories might be necessary to understand word recognition completely.

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