Language production is logically divided into three major steps: deciding what to express (conceptualization), determining how to express it (formulation), and expressing it (articulation). Although achieving goals in conversation, structuring narratives, and modulating the ebb and flow of dialogue are inherently important to understanding how people speak, psycholinguistic studies of language production have primarily focused on the formulation of single, isolated utterances. An utterance consists of one or more words, spoken together under a single intentional contour or expressing a single idea. The simplest meaningful utterance consists of a single word.
Generating a word begins with specifying its semantic and pragmatic properties-that is, a speaker decides upon an intention or some content to express (e.g., a desired outcome or an observation) and encodes the situational constraints on how the content may be expressed.
The next major stage is formulation, which in turn is divided into a word selection stage and a sound processing stage. Sound processing, in contrast, involves constructing the phonological form of a selected word by retrieving its individual sounds and organizing them into stressed and unstressed syllables and then specifying the motor programs to realize those syllables. The final process is articulation-that is, the execution of motor programs to pronounce the sounds of a word.