Meaning relatedness affects storage of ambiguous words in the mental lexicon: unrelated meanings (homonymy) are stored separately whereas related senses (polysemy) are stored as one large representational entry. We hypothesized that word frequency could have similar effects on storage, with low-frequency words having high representational overlap and high-frequency words having low representational overlap. Participants performed lexical decision or semantic categorization to high- and low-frequency nouns with few and many senses. Results showed a three-way interaction between frequency, task type, and polysemy. Low-frequency words showed a polysemy advantage with lexical decision but a polysemy disadvantage with semantic categorization, whereas high-frequency words showed the opposite pattern. These results confirmed our hypothesis that relatedness and word frequency have similar effects on storage of ambiguous words.
- lexical ambiguity
- word frequency
- representational overlap
Jager, B., Green, M. J., & Cleland, A. A. (2016). Polysemy in the mental lexicon: Relatedness and frequency affect representational overlap. Language cognition and neuroscience, 31(3), 425-429. https://doi.org/10.1080/23273798.2015.1105986