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The cost of learning new meanings for familiar words

Maciejewski, G; Rodd, JM; Mon-Williams, M; Klepousniotou, E; (2020) The cost of learning new meanings for familiar words. Language Cognition and Neuroscience , 35 (2) pp. 188-210. 10.1080/23273798.2019.1642500. Green open access

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Abstract

Research has shown that adults are skilled at learning new words and meanings. We examined whether learning new meanings for familiar words affects the processing of their existing meanings. Adults learnt fictitious meanings for previously unambiguous words over four consecutive days. We tested comprehension of existing meanings using a semantic relatedness decision task in which the probe word was related to the existing but not the new meaning. Following the training, responses were slower to the trained, but not to the untrained, words, indicating competition between newly-acquired and well-established meanings. This effect was smaller for meanings that were semantically related to existing meanings than for the unrelated counterparts, demonstrating that meaning relatedness modulates the degree of competition. Overall, the findings confirm that new meanings can be integrated into the mental lexicon after just a few days’ exposure, and provide support for current models of ambiguity processing.

Type: Article
Title: The cost of learning new meanings for familiar words
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2019.1642500
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/23273798.2019.1642500
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Lexical/semantic ambiguity, semantic processing, word comprehension, vocabulary, language acquisition
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10084151
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