This article contrasts aphasic patients' performance of word naming and lexical decision with that of intact college-aged readers. We discuss this contrast within a framework of self-organization; word recognition by aphasic patients is destabilized relative to intact performance. Less stable performance shows itself as an increase in the dispersion of patients' response times compared to college students'. Dispersion is also more pronounced for low-frequency words than for high frequency words. We speculate, that increased dispersion originates in a reduction of constraints that support naming and lexical decision performances. A sufficient reduction of constraints yields qualitative changes in performance such as the production of semantic errors in deep dyslexia. These hypotheses are offered as alternatives to postulating distinct modules.