Retrieval of irregular polysemes: Evidence from priming and eye-movements
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We provide behavioral and electrophysiological evidence that readers do not initially commit to a particular interpretation when retrieving irregular biased polysemes like OIL (car; cooking), whose senses differ in frequency and cannot be related via productive rules. We compared biased polysemes with biased homonyms (BANK: financial institution; side of river) whose meanings are semantically unrelated. Eye-tracking investigations of homonyms (Duffy, Morris, & Rayner, 1988) show that lexical access is affected by the relative frequency of meanings. While only a homonym’s dominant meaning is accessed in the absence of context, prior contexts supporting subordinate meanings lead to meaning competition. Evidence regarding irregular polysemes is mixed. Some studies support separate entries (Klein & Murphy, 2001) while others support a single entry (Beretta, Fiorentino, & Poeppel, 2005). Crucially, most studies failed to carefully control the relative frequency and degree of semantic relatedness of irregular polysemes senses, issues addressed in this study.