Does producing semantically related words aid word retrieval in people with aphasia?

Oksana Lyalka*, David Howard, Julie Morris, Lyndsey Nickels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: A number of studies with healthy participants have shown that the retrieval of a word results in faster subsequent retrieval of the same word and slower retrieval of a semantic coordinate. Similarly, studies have shown that naming in people with aphasia benefits from prior repetition of the same word. However, it remains unclear how previous retrieval of a semantically coordinated and/or associated word affects subsequent word retrieval in aphasia. Aims: To determine whether production of a semantic coordinate and/or associated word facilitates word retrieval in a case series of people with aphasia. Methods & Procedures: Two experiments were conducted. Experiment 1 involved 12 people with chronic aphasia and impaired picture naming. It examined the effect of repeating an associated coordinate (e.g., car) in the presence of a picture (e.g., bus) affected later picture naming of the same picture (bus), when compared to repetition of identity primes (bus), unrelated primes (e.g., sea) and unprimed items. Experiment 2 used the same paradigm with nine people with aphasia to examine the effect of primes that were either only associates (e.g., conductor) or coordinates (e.g., ferry) of the target (bus). Outcomes & Results: Both experiments showed significant improvement in accuracy and facilitation of naming latencies in the identity condition. In Experiment 1, significant interference was detected at the group level for the associated coordinates, with increased reaction times. However, no significant effects were observed from association and coordination independently in Experiment 2. Conclusions: Given that repetition of associated coordinates impairs subsequent naming but there was no identifiable effect of items that were only either associated or coordinated, it seems likely that semantic interference is most prevalent when primes are more closely semantically related to the target. The finding of interference from these closely related associated coordinates (e.g., car-bus) has implications for treatment paradigms that include such items.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-194
Number of pages37
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020



  • association
  • coordination
  • identity
  • facilitation
  • repetition priming
  • semantic interference

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