Sentence context effects on lexically ambiguous words

Evidence for a postaccess inhibition process

Sachiko Kinoshita*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


Two experiments were conducted to investigate the process involved in selecting the contextually appropriate meaning of a homograph. Both experiments employed a grammaticality decision task. In Experiment 1, the primary (more frequent) and secondary (less frequent) meanings of homographs were used as the target items requiring a "yes" decision. The results indicated that the effect of relative frequency of these meanings of homographs was reduced when the target word was preceded either by a semantically congruous or anomalous sentence context relative to when it was preceded by the grammatical morpheme "the" or "to." Experiment 2 indicated that "no" decisions were consistently slower for syntactically unambiguous, but semantically ambiguous words (e.g., ORGAN, FEET) than for syntactically and semantically unambiguous words (e.g., CENT, LEND), irrespective of the type of preceding context. The results, taken as a whole, are best interpreted within the postaccess inhibition model of sentence-context effects suggested by Forster (1981).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-595
Number of pages17
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1985
Externally publishedYes

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