Evidence of semantic clustering in letter-cued word retrieval

Kyongje Sung, Barry Gordon, Sujeong Yang, David J. Schretlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Letter-cued word fluency is conceptualized as a phonemically guided word retrieval process. Accordingly, word clusters typically are defined solely by their phonemic similarity. We investigated semantic clustering in two letter-cued (P and S) word fluency task performances by 315 healthy adults, each for 1 min. Singular value decomposition (SVD) and generalized topological overlap measure (GTOM) were applied to verbal outputs to conservatively extract clusters of high-frequency words. The results generally confirmed phonemic clustering. However, we also found considerable semantic/associative clusters of words (e.g., pen, pencil, and paper), and some words showed both phonemic and semantic associations within a single cluster (e.g., pair, pear, peach). We conclude that letter-cued fluency is not necessarily a purely phonemic word retrieval process. Strong automatic semantic activation mechanisms play an important role in letter-cued lexical retrieval. Theoretical conceptualizations of the word retrieval process with phonemic cues may also need to be reexamined in light of these analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1015-1023
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


  • Clustering
  • Cued-word retrieval
  • Semantic system
  • Switching
  • Verbal fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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