Non-native homonym processing

an ERP measurement

Jiehui Hu, Wenpeng Zhang, Chen Zhao, Weiyi Ma, Yongxiu Lai, Dezhong Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), the present study examined non-native English speakers' brain activation of different meanings of English homonyms in inappropriate sentence contexts. We differentiated two types of homonyms: biased words vs. balanced words, where the former had a dominant and subordinate meaning respectively whereas the two meanings of the later type had a comparable usage frequency. High proficiency Chinese ESL participants were instructed to perform a lexical decision task in a 3 (word meaning types: balanced, biased dominant, biased subordinate) × 2 (Relatedness: related vs. unrelated) priming paradigm. Repeated measures ANOVA showed that related targets with the balanced or biased dominant meanings elicited a smaller N400 amplitude than unrelated ones but no such effect was found with biased subordinate meaning. Results suggested a dissociation of processing mechanisms for different word types. At 500ms stimulus-onset-asynchrony (SOA), both meanings of the balanced words were activated; whereas only the dominant meaning of the biased words could be activated in inappropriate sentence context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-211
Number of pages5
JournalInternational journal of bioelectromagnetism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ERPs
  • N400 amplitude
  • meaning activation
  • biased words
  • balanced words

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