Semantic Priming Across Many Languages (SPAML)


  • Jaš Onič University of Ljubljana
  • Christina Manouilidou University of Ljubljana



The understanding of how the mental lexicon (i.e. how words are stored in our mind) is organised broadens our knowledge on language, cognition, and memory. Among the many theories proposed, the semantic view (i.e. based on meaning) has a key role [1]. In our study, we will focus on semantic priming, a paradigm generally employed in studies on language to better understand how our minds process language and meaning, where participants are first presented with the prime word (e.g. spoon) and immediately after with the target word (e.g. fork). If the two words are semantically related they respond faster than in unrelated pairs [2].

The focus of our study is to gather a large dataset of response latencies and priming scores for prime and target word pairs across 55 languages. Additionally, the primes and targets will be supplemented with other important variables (e.g. concreteness). Our aim is to collect semantic priming data to lessen the burden of research labs to collect such data for themselves and provide them with a dataset of carefully controlled stimuli. This updatable database would be accessible via internet. Our part is focused on the Slovene language.


We will include 40 young adults (18-40) who will be presented with a lexical decision task with semantic priming on an online web portal where they will indicate whether the shown word exists in their native language or not. The prime and the target will be either semantically related (stol-miza) or unrelated (stol-nebo). The study will also include pronounceable non-words generated by replacing one character of an existing word for another (skol). Before the lexical decision task, the participants will provide their demographic information and after the task, they will answer a questionnaire about subjective measures of different concepts, such as familiarity, concreteness, and imageability.

Expected Results and Discussion

Based on previous research we expect to see more accurate responses with words than non-words and a shorter response time in semantically related prime and target conditions than unrelated. These results would indicate a facilitation in processing words based on their meaning.

With the study, we aim to advance our knowledge about the organisation of the mental lexicon and explore the role of semantics. Additionally, we wish to enhance the cross-linguistic perspective on the topic. Some of the limitations of the study include the difficulty of selecting words controlled exclusively for semantics among numerous other variables. Another difficulty has to do with the broader study of morphologically less complex monosyllabic words compared to multisyllabic words [2].


[1] M. Lehmann, “Models of the mental lexicon,” Argumentum, vol. 15, pp. 277–289, 2019.

[2] D. A. Balota et al., “The English Lexicon Project,” Behavior research methods, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 445–459, 2007. doi:10.3758/BF03193014