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Settling Into Semantic Space: An Ambiguity-Focused Account of Word-Meaning Access

Rodd, JM; (2020) Settling Into Semantic Space: An Ambiguity-Focused Account of Word-Meaning Access. Perspectives on Psychological Science 10.1177/1745691619885860. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Most words are ambiguous: Individual word forms (e.g., run) can map onto multiple different interpretations depending on their sentence context (e.g., the athlete/politician/river runs). Models of word-meaning access must therefore explain how listeners and readers can rapidly settle on a single, contextually appropriate meaning for each word that they encounter. I present a new account of word-meaning access that places semantic disambiguation at its core and integrates evidence from a wide variety of experimental approaches to explain this key aspect of language comprehension. The model has three key characteristics. (a) Lexical-semantic knowledge is viewed as a high-dimensional space; familiar word meanings correspond to stable states within this lexical-semantic space. (b) Multiple linguistic and paralinguistic cues can influence the settling process by which the system resolves on one of these familiar meanings. (c) Learning mechanisms play a vital role in facilitating rapid word-meaning access by shaping and maintaining high-quality lexical-semantic knowledge throughout the life span. In contrast to earlier models of word-meaning access, I highlight individual differences in lexical-semantic knowledge: Each person's lexicon is uniquely structured by specific, idiosyncratic linguistic experiences.

Type: Article
Title: Settling Into Semantic Space: An Ambiguity-Focused Account of Word-Meaning Access
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/1745691619885860
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691619885860
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: cognition, comprehension, language/communication, lexical ambiguity, vocabulary, word-meaning access
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
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/10090710
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