Words that have a number of related senses are polysemous. For example, paper refers to both a substance and a publication printed on that substance. Five experiments investigated whether different senses are represented distinctly in the lexicon or if there is a common, core meaning. In all experiments, a polysemous word was used twice, in phrases that selected the same or different senses. Experiment 1 showed that sense consistency aided memory for the polysemous word. Experiment 2 extended this result to a timed sensicality judgment task. Experiment 3 demonstrated that the effects for polysemous words were very similar to those for homonyms. Experiment 4 ruled out the possibility of modifier-modifier priming. Experiment 5 showed that sense consistency facilitates comprehension relative to a neutral baseline, while sense inconsistency inhibits comprehension. These experiments provide evidence that polysemous words have separate representations for each sense and that any core meaning is minimal.
- Lexical semantics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Language and Linguistics
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Linguistics and Language
- Artificial Intelligence