Lexical Planning in Sentence Production Is Highly Incremental: Evidence from ERPs.PLoS One. 2016; 11(1):e0146359.Plos
The scope of lexical planning, which means how far ahead speakers plan lexically before they start producing an utterance, is an important issue for research into speech production, but remains highly controversial. The present research investigated this issue using the semantic blocking effect, which refers to the widely observed effects that participants take longer to say aloud the names of items in pictures when the pictures in a block of trials in an experiment depict items that belong to the same semantic category than different categories. As this effect is often interpreted as a reflection of difficulty in lexical selection, the current study took the semantic blocking effect and its associated pattern of event-related brain potentials (ERPs) as a proxy to test whether lexical planning during sentence production extends beyond the first noun when a subject noun-phrase includes two nouns, such as "The chair and the boat are both red" and "The chair above the boat is red". The results showed a semantic blocking effect both in onset latencies and in ERPs during the utterance of the first noun of these complex noun-phrases but not for the second noun. The indication, therefore, is that the lexical planning scope does not encompass this second noun-phrase. Indeed, the present findings are in line with accounts that propose radically incremental lexical planning, in which speakers plan ahead only one word at a time. This study also provides a highly novel example of using ERPs to examine the production of long utterances, and it is hoped the present demonstration of the effectiveness of this approach inspires further application of ERP techniques in this area of research.