Phonological and syntactic competition effects in spoken word recognition: evidence from corpus-based statistics

Jie Zhuang, Barry J. Devereux*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


As spoken language unfolds over time the speech input transiently activates multiple candidates at different levels of the system–phonological, lexical, and syntactic–which in turn leads to short-lived between-candidate competition. In an fMRI study, we investigated how different kinds of linguistic competition may be modulated by the presence or absence of a prior context (Tyler 1984; Tyler et al. 2008). We found significant effects of lexico-phonological competition for isolated words, but not for words in short phrases, with high competition yielding greater activation in left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and posterior temporal regions. This suggests that phrasal contexts reduce lexico-phonological competition by eliminating form-class inconsistent cohort candidates. A corpus-derived measure of lexico-syntactic competition was associated with greater activation in LIFG for verbs in phrases, but not for isolated verbs, indicating that lexico-syntactic information is boosted by the phrasal context. Together, these findings indicate that LIFG plays a general role in resolving different kinds of linguistic competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-235
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number2
Early online date09 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 07 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • argument structure
  • Cohort competition
  • corpus data
  • lexico-syntactic competition
  • subcategorisation frames

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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