We examined the progression of lexical-retrieval deficits in individuals with neuropathologically determined Alzheimer’s disease (AD; n1⁄4 23) and a comparison group without criteria for AD (n1⁄4 24) to determine whether linguistic changes were a significant marker of the disease. Our participants underwent multiple administrations of a neuropsychological battery, with initial administration occurring on average 16 years prior to death. The battery included the Boston Naming Test (BNT), a letter fluency task (FAS) and written description of the Cookie Theft Picture (CTP). Repeated measures analysis revealed that the AD-group showed progressively greater decline in FAS and CTP lexical performance than the comparison group. Crosssectional time-specific group comparisons indicated that the CTP differentiated performance between the two groups at 7–9 years prior to death and FAS and BNT only at 2–4 years. These results suggest that lexicalretrieval deficits in written discourse serve as an early indicator of AD.