Representation and processing of lexically ambiguous words

Stephen J. Lupker

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568971
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
 Representation and processing of lexically ambiguous words

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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This article explores the impact of ambiguity on word processing out of context, mostly in single word presentation tasks. These tasks should give us the best chance of uncovering the basic principles underlying how these words are represented in memory and how that memory representation is accessed. The article first discusses the key phenomenon and then considers attempts to model that phenomenon based on some possible ways in which ambiguous words might be represented in memory. It also focuses on more recent attempts to distinguish between different types of ambiguous words and what that research might have to say about the representation question. Moreover, the article assesses models based on multiple lexical units, models based on distributed representations, ambiguity effects in semantic tasks, the distinction between activation and selection, and eye movements. Finally, it analyses a prediction of all current models by considering data from other, neutral-context tasks before turning to the question of the impact of context.

Keywords: ambiguity; word processing; context; word presentation; memory; ambiguous words; lexical units; distributed representations; semantic tasks; eye movements

Article.  12203 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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