Cascading activation from lexical processing to letter-level processing in written word production

Adam Buchwald, Carolyn Falconer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Descriptions of language production have identified processes involved in producing language and the presence and type of interaction among those processes. In the case of spoken language production, consensus has emerged that there is interaction among lexical selection processes and phoneme-level processing. This issue has received less attention in written language production. In this paper, we present a novel analysis of the writing-to-dictation performance of an individual with acquired dysgraphia revealing cascading activation from lexical processing to letter-level processing. The individual produced frequent lexical–semantic errors (e.g., chipmunk → SQUIRREL) as well as letter errors (e.g., inhibit → INBHITI) and had a profile consistent with impairment affecting both lexical processing and letter-level processing. The presence of cascading activation is suggested by lower letter accuracy on words that are more weakly activated during lexical selection than on those that are more strongly activated. We operationalize weakly activated lexemes as those lexemes that are produced as lexical–semantic errors (e.g., lethal in deadly → LETAHL) compared to strongly activated lexemes where the intended target word (e.g., lethal) is the lexeme selected for production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)606-621
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
StatePublished - Nov 3 2014


  • Cascading activation
  • Dysgraphia
  • Spelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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