Date of Award

1-1-2009

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Robin Morris

Abstract

This study explores how contextual information interacts in discourse representation when a biased ambiguous word (BAW) precedes a particular disambiguating context supporting either an initial dominant or a subordinate meaning. This experiment assumed that readers selected the dominant meaning before leaving the BAW; and when they encountered information challenging this selection, readers were immediately prompted to reanalyze the source of processing difficulty. Confirming the initial dominant meaning demanded a particular behavior represented in less processing time and regressions to the BAW when the context strongly supported this initial selection, and interestingly, readers spent higher rereading times on this context than in any other biasing context.

These results invite us to extend the study of ambiguity resolution beyond the study of the earliest moments of meaning access to include mechanisms such as monitoring, regulation and reanalysis strategies, in meaning integration. That is, in everyday reading tasks, readers face text integration challenges that extend beyond lexical access. Although lexical challenges affect comprehension, readers' metacognitive mechanisms and strategies will lead them to integrate individual word meaning to construct and maintain a coherent discourse representation. Lexical ambiguity also plays a role in these processes, as the results of this study suggest.

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