The many places of frequency

Evidence for a novel locus of the lexical frequency effect in word production

Mark Knobel*, Matthew Finkbeiner, Alfonso Caramazza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of lexical frequency on language-processing tasks is exceptionally reliable. For example, pictures with higher frequency names are named faster and more accurately than those with lower frequency names. Experiments with normal participants and patients strongly suggest that this production effect arises at the level of lexical access. Further work has suggested that within lexical access this effect arises at the level of lexical representations. Here we present patient E.C. who shows an effect of lexical frequency on his nonword error rate. The best explanation of his performance is that there is an additional locus of frequency at the interface of lexical and segmental representational levels. We confirm this hypothesis by showing that only computational models with frequency at this new locus can produce a similar error pattern to that of patient E.C. Finally, in an analysis of a large group of Italian patients, we show that there exist patients who replicate E.C.'s pattern of results and others who show the complementary pattern of frequency effects on semantic error rates. Our results combined with previous findings suggest that frequency plays a role throughout the process of lexical access.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-286
Number of pages31
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


Cite this