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The availability of noun properties during the interpretation of novel noun phrases

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The current experiments examine whether recent exposure to a modifier-noun phrase (e.g., unripe peaches) affects the representation of the head noun (e.g, peach). Experiment 1 demonstrates that a property true of the head noun (e.g, sweet) takes longer to verify when preceded by a phrase for which this property is not true (e.g., unripe peaches) than by a phrase for which the property remains true (e.g., orchard peaches). Experiment 2 replicates this finding and, in addition, demonstrates that properties that remain true of both prime phrases (e.g., fuzzy) are equally available during the processing of the head noun. These findings suggest that interpreting a modifier-noun phrase affects the head noun’s representation such that properties that are incompatible with the entire phrase temporarily become less available during subsequent processing of the head noun than do properties that remain compatible with the phrase.

Keywords: compound words; concepts; conceptual combination; feature availability; noun phrase

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007


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