Examining ambiguous adjectives in adjective-noun phrases
Evidence for representation as a shared core-meaning with sense specialization
The meaning of a modifier is influenced by the noun it modifies (Murphy, 1988). To determine how alternative senses of ambiguous adjectives are represented, we examined the processing of noun phrases. Ambiguous adjectives were paired with nouns such that the interpretation of the phrases used the dominant or subdominant sense (e.g., green conference). Participants verified interpretations (Experiments 1 and 2) or made sense-nonsense judgments (Experiments 3 and 4) to target phrases that were preceded by primes that were related to a single sense of the ambiguous modifier. Responses to targets were facilitated by consistent primes, and either unaffected (in the verification task) or facilitated (in the sense-nonsense task) by inconsistent primes. Furthermore, responses were influenced by the strength of both senses. Results support ambiguous word representation as a shared core-meaning with sense specialization.
Keywords: noun phrases, ambiguity, conceptual combination, polysemy, meaning representation, compounds
Published online: 18 June 2010
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