The difficult mountain: Enriched composition in adjective-noun phrases

Steven Frisson, Martin J. Pickering, Brian McElree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When readers need to go beyond the straightforward compositional meaning of a sentence (i. e., when enriched composition is required), costly additional processing is the norm. However, this conclusion is based entirely on research that has looked at enriched composition between two phrases or within the verb phrase (e. g., the verb and its complement in . . . started the book . . .) where there is a discrepancy between the semantic expectations of the verb and the semantics of the noun. We carried out an eye-tracking experiment investigating enriched composition within a single noun phrase, as in the difficult mountain. As compared with adjective-noun phrases that allow a straightforward compositional interpretation (the difficult exercise), the coerced phrases were more difficult to process. These results indicate that coercion effects can be found in the absence of a typing violation and within a single noun phrase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1172-1179
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Eye movements - reading
  • Language comprehension
  • Psycholinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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