The Effects of Word Frequency and Language Proficiency on Repetition Priming and Picture Naming

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Frequency is known to modulate outcomes on tasks like picture naming. According to the frequency lag hypothesis there is a common mechanism for the effects of word frequency, language dominance and bilingual and monolingual differences in picture naming (Gollan, Montoya, Cera, & Sandoval, 2008; Gollan, Slattery, Goldenberg, Van Assche, Duyck, & Rayner, 2011). English monolinguals and English-Spanish bilinguals were tested on a picture naming task with pictures that had high and low frequency names. Response times, priming scores, and error rates were assessed. Response times indicated that monolinguals, and bilinguals were slower to respond to for low frequency picture names than high frequency picture names. Also, monolinguals were faster at the picture naming task than bilinguals and bilinguals were faster in their dominant (L1) than non-dominant (L2) language. Priming scores indicated that monolinguals and bilinguals showed stronger priming for low frequency than high frequency picture names. Priming was stronger for bilingual L2 but not L1 compared to monolinguals. The effects of frequency and language on priming did not interact for bilinguals. However, frequency effects were stronger for bilinguals in L1 and L2 than for monolinguals. Error rates were higher for low frequency picture names than high frequency. Also, there were more errors for bilinguals than monolinguals, and more errors in bilingual L2 than L1. The results are discussed in terms of the frequency lag hypothesis. These findings provide support for the frequency-lag hypothesis in terms of the interaction of frequency and language on response times, but not for the interaction of frequency and language on priming for bilinguals.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Psychology
  • Linguistics

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