Lexical context effect on meaning access of homographs


  • Therouanne P
  • Denhiere G

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We present three lexical decision experiments investigating the effect of lexical context on homophonic homographs meaning access. In the two first experiments, each trial consisted of the presentation of a context word, an ambiguous word as a prime, and a target word. The context word was related either to the dominant or subordinate meaning, or was not related. The target word was related to the dominant meaning of the ambiguous word in Experiment 1, and to the subordinate meaning in Experiment 2. The presentation time of words and the ISI were also manipulated. The results indicated an early effect of the context on meaning access : whereas the presentation of a context word related to the same meaning as the target word resulted in a facilitation of reaction times, a context word related to a different meaning did not produce an inhibition effect on target processing time. Moreover, this pattern of results was obtained whatever the relative frequency of the meaning related to the target word. A third experiment was conducted in order to test the possibility of a direct priming effect between the context and the target words related to the same meaning. Our results are discussed with regard to the hypothesis of competition between the different meanings of homographs.

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