The Psychology of Word Meanings

The Psychology of Word Meanings

The Psychology of Word Meanings

The Psychology of Word Meanings

Synopsis

This volume contains perspectives from a collection of cognitive scientists on the psychological, philosophical, and educational issues surrounding the meanings of words and how these meanings are learned and accessed. It features chapters covering the nature and structure of word meaning, how new word meanings are acquired in childhood and later on in life, and how research in word processing may tell us something about the way in which word meanings are represented and how they relate to the language processor.

Excerpt

University of Georgia

In the past few years, cognitive scientists have made tremendous strides in the understanding of how word meaning is represented, processed, and acquired. Simultaneously, research has progressed on a number of fronts: First, our knowledge has greatly expanded regarding fairly basic issues such as the general nature and structure of word meaning (e.g., Barsalou, 1987; Cohen & Murphy, 1984; Medin & Smith, 1984) and how such structure is reflected when word meanings are combined (Hampton, 1987; Medin & Shoben, 1988). Significant advances have also been made in our understanding of how very young children come to learn the meanings of new words (Markman, 1989) and how vocabulary learning proceeds in older children and adults (McKeown, 1985; Nagy & Anderson, 1984). Our knowledge of how word meaning is processed in language understanding has been amplified by studies of word recognition in meaningful contexts (e.g., Neely, 1991; Stanovich & West, 1983; Schwanenflugel, 1991) and studies of the processing of words with varying semantic characteristics (e.g., Balota & Chumbley, 1984; Schwanenflugel, Harnishfeger, & Stowe, 1988). Moreover, as a field, we have become much more aware of the neurological contributions to the processing of word meanings (Burgess & Simpson, 1988; Chiarello, 1988). Yet, although these various advances offer the promise of a more integrated and comprehensive understanding of the psychology of word meaning, these approaches have often seemed somewhat fragmented and isolated from one another.

The purpose of this book is to provide readers with a sense of the scope of the issues that impinge upon the psychological aspects of word meaning. I do not purport to present in this single volume a complete accounting of all the topics that might need to be included to describe the state of the art of research on word . . .

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