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The information value of initial letters in the identification of words

Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0022-5371(66)80058-0


In most experiments dealing with the relative effectiveness of different word parts in word identification, the greater importance of the word beginning has been ascribed to the sequential order of speech. However, differences in the amount of information must also be taken into account: initial letters contain more information than final letters. In order to determine whether both factors have an effect, an experiment was carried out in which 48 Ss had to guess Dutch 7-letter nouns from a varying number of letters which constituted either the initial or the final word part. For these nouns as a group, beginnings and endings carried equal amounts of information. The results indicated that both information and serial order in speech were effective. The time required for identification was dependent on the amount of information of the n-gram presented. The Ss also enumerated more 7-letter nouns if the initial letters were available, and as a result identification took less time. In addition, the enumerated nouns were found to be relatively frequent words, and speed of solution was directly related to frequency of occurrence in the language.

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