Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Exp Psychol. 2003;50(3):159-70.

Lexical ambiguity resolution across languages: a theoretical and empirical review.

Author information

Department of Psychology, Social Science 369, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York 12222, USA.


Words that involve completely different meanings across languages but possess significant overlap in form are referred to as homographic noncognates or interlexical homographs (e.g., red is a color word in English but means "net" in Spanish). An important question in the investigation of the processing of these words is whether or not both meaning and form are integral to their representation leading to language-specific processing of these items. In contrast, some theories have been put forth indicating that the processing of these words is nonselective with regards to language. Simply stated, when one of these words is encountered, all of the relevant meanings are accessed regardless of the specific demands of the task and the base language that is being used. In the present, critical review, evidence purported to favor each view is presented along with a discussion of the methodological and analytic constraints that moderate the reported findings. The data lead to the conclusion that there is a time course involved in the activation of multiple meanings such that a primary or dominant meaning (sometimes biased by frequency) is typically accessed more readily, followed by the opposite language meaning. These results indicated that studies should focus on manipulating the timing intervals between the presentation of these words and subsequent responses that are required by a particular task.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Atypon
    Loading ...
    Support Center