Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Relation Priming in Established Compounds: Facilitation?

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Relation Priming in Established Compounds: Facilitation?

Article excerpt

Abstract Gagné and Spalding (Brain and Language, 90, 478-486, 2004, Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 20-35, 2009) have shown that the difficulty of interpreting an established compound (e.g., snowball) can be influenced by recent exposure to a compound with the same modifier and that this influence depends on the relation linking the constituents of the compound. For example, snowball (a ball made of snow) was processed more quickly following snowfort (a fort made of snow; same relation) than following snowshovel (a shovel for snow; different relation). In three experiments, we investigated the basis of this relation-priming effect. The results indicated that the relation-priming effect in established compounds is due to slower processing in the different-relation condition rather than to faster processing in the same-relation condition. These results pose a challenge for most models of compound-word processing.

Keywords Compounds . Complex words . Conceptual combination . Noun-noun phrases

Consider an established (familiar) compound such as teacup. A speaker using the compound before it became a word in the language would have needed to combine the concepts tea and cup to express the meaning a cup for tea. Furthermore, people hearing teacup for the first time are likely to be able to understand it if they know the concepts corresponding to the words tea and cup. In either case, the speaker or hearer must combine the constituent concepts in order to create a meaning for the compound. For this reason, the conceptual combination process is important in the initial development of compound words and continues to be important for the understanding of compounds that are new to the hearer.

During the conceptual combination process, the interpretation often makes use of a relation to link the concepts, such as noun-FOR-modifier in the example of teacup above. The relation, though not overtly expressed in the compound, has important implications for the meaning of the phrase: a cup for tea is quite different from a cup made of tea or a cup that causes tea or a cup that is caused by tea, and so on. Thus, the interpretation of the compound includes the relation as well as the meanings of the constituent words (see Pelletier, 2003, for a related philosophical argument). Linguists interested in how compounds are interpreted have developed several similar classification schemes for the relations that link the constituents of compounds (e.g., Downing, 1977; Levi, 1978; Warren, 1978).

A number of studies have shown that such relations influence the processing of novel compounds (Devereux, Maguire, Costello, & Cater 2006; Estes & Jones, 2006; Gagné, 2001, 2002; Gagné & Shoben, 1997, 2002; Gagné& Spalding, 2006; Gagné, Spalding, Figueredo, & Mullaly 2009; Gagné, Spalding, & Ji 2005b; Jones, Estes, & Marsh 2008; Maguire & Cater, 2004; Maguire, Devereux, Costello, & Cater 2007; Ramey, 2005; Spalding & Gagné, 2007, 2008; Spalding, Gagné, Mullaly, & Ji 2010; Storms & Wisniewski, 2005). For example, effects of such relations were demonstrated in a relation-priming paradigm using novel compounds by Gagné (2001). Target novel compounds such as mountain bird (LOCATED) were interpreted more quickly following a same-relation prime such as A number of studies have shown that such relations influence the processing of novel compounds (Devereux, Maguire, Costello, & Cater 2006; Estes & Jones, 2006; Gagné, 2001, 2002; Gagné & Shoben, 1997, 2002; Gagné& Spalding, 2006; Gagné, Spalding, Figueredo, & Mullaly 2009; Gagné, Spalding, & Ji 2005b; Jones, Estes, & Marsh 2008; Maguire & Cater, 2004; Maguire, Devereux, Costello, & Cater 2007; Ramey, 2005; Spalding & Gagné, 2007, 2008; Spalding, Gagné, Mullaly, & Ji 2010; Storms & Wisniewski, 2005). For example, effects of such relations were demonstrated in a relation-priming paradigm using novel compounds by Gagné (2001). …

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