Word processing

Zhenguang Cai, Gabriella Vigliocco

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter reviews theories and empirical research on how humans
retrieve meaning from speech or text. We first review research concerning
how word meanings are represented. Here theories are divided between
embodiment accounts proposing that word meanings are grounded in
sensorimotor systems, and distributional semantics accounts proposing
that meanings can be viewed as inter-word distributional relations. We
argued that these two approaches deal with different aspects of word
meanings and should be integrated. For meaning retrieval, we discussed
previous research showing that both meaning dominance and prior context
determine the access and retrieval of meanings. We also discuss how the
selected and unselected meanings may be later suppressed and reinstantiated.
Finally, we proposed that prior, concurrent or subsequent
contexts, situated in the framework of inferential/predictive language
processing, play different roles in word processing. Prior context
constitutes the prior knowledge that sets the stage for word recognition
and meaning retrieval, concurrent context constrains the recognition of the
word/meaning, and subsequent context updates lexico-semantic
knowledge against recent experience. We proposed that future research
should investigate words in their natural habitat of contextualised and
multimodal language communication.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Stevens’ Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience
EditorsJohn T. Wixted, Simona Ghetti
ISBN (Print)978-1-119-17005-1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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