Phonological–lexical activation: a lexical component or anoutput buffer? Evidence from aphasic errors

Cristina Romani, Claudia Galluzzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Single word production requires that phoneme activation is maintained while articulatory conversion is taking place. Word serial recall, connected speech and non-word production (repetition and spelling) are all assumed to involve a phonological output buffer. A crucial question is whether the same memory resources are also involved in single word production. We investigate this question by assessing length and positional effects in the single word repetition and reading of six aphasic patients. We expect a damaged buffer to result in error rates per phoneme which increase with word length and in position effects. Although our patients had trouble with phoneme activation (they made mainly errors of phoneme selection), they did not show the effects expected from a buffer impairment. These results show that phoneme activation cannot be automatically equated with a buffer. We hypothesize that the phonemes of existing words are kept active though permanent links to the word node. Thus, the sustained activation needed for their articulation will come from the lexicon and will have different characteristics from the activation needed for the short-term retention of an unbound set of units. We conclude that there is no need and no evidence for a phonological buffer in single word production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-235
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Cortex. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Romani, Cristina and Galluzzi, Claudia (2011). Phonological–lexical activation: A lexical component or an output buffer? Evidence from aphasic errors. Cortex, 47 (2), pp. 217-235. DOI 10.1016/j.cortex.2009.11.004


  • phonological output buffer
  • phonological errors
  • buffer impairment
  • length effects
  • positional effects


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