Processing correlates of lexical semantic complexity

Silvia Gennari, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores how verb meanings that differ in semantic complexity are processed and represented. In particular, we compare eventive verbs, which denote causally structured events, with stative verbs, which denote facts without causal structure. We predicted that the conceptually more complex eventive verbs should take longer to process than stative verbs. Two experiments, a lexical decision task and a self-paced reading study, confirmed this prediction. The findings suggest that (a) semantic complexity is reflected in processing time, (b) processing verb meanings involves activating properties of the event structure beyond participants' roles, and (c) more generally, lexical event structures, which subsume thematic roles, may mediate between syntactic knowledge and semantic interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B27-B41
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Event structure
  • Semantic complexity
  • Verb meaning
  • Verb processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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