Processing novel compounds: evidence for interactive meaning activation of ambiguous nouns.Mem Cognit. 1993 Mar; 21(2):235-46.MC
In three experiments, the meaning activation of ambiguous nouns in novel nominal compounds was investigated. Ambiguous nouns were unbalanced homographs occurring as the second members of the compound. Meaningful interpretations of the compounds were based on either the dominant or the subordinate meaning of the ambiguous noun. In Experiment 1, visually presented novel compounds serving as primes were followed at varying intervals by targets associatively related to distinct meanings of the ambiguous noun. In a lexical decision task, facilitation effects were found only for targets related to the meaning that was relevant for the interpretation of the compound. Experiment 2 showed that interactive activation could not be attributed to differences in semantic relatedness between the first members of compounds and targets. Experiment 3 demonstrated equal intralexical relatedness between members for both types of compounds. It is proposed that interactive activation may facilitate the interpretation of the novel compound. Compatible meaning aspects of the nouns may become more strongly activated, and incompatible meaning aspects may not become activated. The selection of meaning aspects relevant for interpretation would thereby be simplified.