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Relational diversity affects ease of processing even for opaque English compounds

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Recent research has indicated that understanding compound words involves an attempt at semantic composition of the constituent words, and that this meaning construction process involves an attempt to identify a relation linking the constituents. Research with novel compounds, where a meaning construction process is necessary, has shown that relational interpretations compete to be selected during comprehension, and that increased competition leads to increased processing difficulty. The current project investigates relational competition during the processing of transparent and opaque English compounds. The results show that the diversity of possible relational interpretations affects the ease with which participants can make a lexical decision for a compound. This is true even for opaque compounds, where the identification of the meaning of the compound cannot, by definition, be the result of the meaning construction process. This suggests that initiation of the meaning construction process is obligatory during compound processing.
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Keywords: compound words; semantic composition; semantic interpretation of compounds; semantic transparency

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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