Prototypicality in sentence production

Kristine H. Onishi, Gregory L. Murphy, Kathryn Bock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three cued-recall experiments examined the effect of category typicality on the ordering of words in sentence production. Past research has found that typical items tend to be mentioned before atypical items in a phrase-a pattern usually associated with lexical variables (like word frequency), and yet typicality is a conceptual variable. Experiment 1 revealed that an appropriate conceptual framework was necessary to yield the typicality effect. Experiment 2 tested ad hoc categories that do not have prior representations in long-term memory and yielded no typicality effect. Experiment 3 used carefully matched sentences in which two category members appeared in the same or in different phrases. Typicality affected word order only when the two words appeared in the same phrase. These results are consistent with an account in which typicality has its origin in conceptual structure, which leads to differences in lexical accessibility in appropriate contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-141
Number of pages39
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Categories
  • Concepts
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sentence production
  • Typicality
  • Word meaning
  • Word order

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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