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Picking buttercups and eating butter cups: Spelling alternations, semantic relatedness, and their consequences for compound processing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2014

MARCO MARELLI*
Affiliation:
University of Trento
GEORGIANA DINU
Affiliation:
University of Trento
ROBERTO ZAMPARELLI
Affiliation:
University of Trento
MARCO BARONI
Affiliation:
University of Trento
*
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Marco Marelli, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Corso Bettini 31, 38068 Rovereto (TN), Italy. E-mail: marco.marelli@unitn.it

Abstract

Semantic transparency (ST) is a measure quantifying the strength of meaning association between a compound word (buttercup) and its constituents (butter, cup). Borrowing ideas from computational semantics, we characterize ST in terms of the degree to which a compound and its constituents tend to share the same contexts in everyday usage, and we collect separate measures for different orthographic realizations (solid vs. open) of the same compound. We can thus compare the effects of semantic association in cases in which direct semantic access is likely to take place (buttercup), vis-á-vis forms that encourage combinatorial procedures (butter cup). ST effects are investigated in an analysis of lexical decision latencies. The results indicate that distributionally based ST variables are most predictive of response times when extracted from contexts presenting the compounds as open forms, suggesting that compound processing involves a conceptual combination procedure focusing on the merger of the constituent meanings.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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References

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