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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

11 - Lexical tasks


The bilingual mental lexicon is often named as the most vulnerable area of linguistic knowledge in language attrition. This chapter will show you some ways in which you may investigate whether lexical access and lexical knowledge have indeed attrited.


The Picture Naming Task (PNT) is a psycholinguistic experiment in which participants are presented with pictures and asked to name them as quickly as possible. The purpose of the task is to measure the speed and accuracy with which participants are able to accomplish the naming. This means that the data you obtain are relatively easy and straightforward to analyse: you simply calculate the average reaction time (RT) of the correctly named items and the proportion of accurate responses for each individual.

When constructing such an experiment, however, there are a number of issues that you should be aware of. The first is where to find the pictures that will be used as stimuli. This is an important consideration, not only for the PNT but for any experiment which uses picture stimuli. The temptation may be to use images which are widely available, for example on the internet. However, you should keep in mind that there may be serious issues of copyright. Just because someone has published an image on a website does not mean that there are no proprietary rights to it or that it can be freely reproduced.