Ambiguity in Psycholinguistics by Joseph F. Kess

By Joseph F. Kess

The authors current a complete evaluate of prior examine in ambiguity within the box of psycholinguistics. Experimental effects have frequently been equivocal in permitting a call among the single-reading speculation and the multiple-reading speculation of processing of ambiguous sentences. this article studies the arguments and experimental ends up in aid of every of those perspectives, and additional investigates the contributions of context and thematic constraints within the technique of ambiguity answer. remark can be made at the attainable hierarchical ordering of hassle within the therapy of ambiguity, in addition to significantly comparable issues like bias, person adjustments, basic cognitive suggestions for facing multiphase representations, and the inherent ameliorations among lexical and syntactic ambiguity.

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If this were all true, of course, then in measuring ambiguous sentences during and after processing we should find no differences be­ tween their treatment and the treatment of unambiguous sentences. Or, one may still claim a variant of the single reading hypothesis, but in the face of context. One may claim that ambiguous sentences in isolation produce one set of effects, some of those already chronicled in the experimental literature to date, but when these sentences are dealt with in the presence of context, another set of strategies applies and no differences are to be seen between ambiguous and unambiguous sentences.

The first suggests that one and only reading is seen at a time, to the exclusion of the other, in much the same way that ambiguous figures al­ low only one visual interpretation at a time. Similarly, for sentences this would mean that one sentence reading would dominate the other to its actual exclusion, while the one reading was being processed as the reading. On the other hand, the fusion hypothesis is the simultaneous perception of both meanings of the ambiguous sentence, with both mean­ ings contributing to a single fused interpretation.

Supposing that the early MacKay and Bever (1967) and MacKay (1966) studies are correct in their experimental re­ sults, one needs an answer as to why ambiguous structures do produce such processing differences. If the results are an artifactual residue of other factors, the other question, perhaps the more important one, remains. Why is it that speakers and hearer/readers usually fail to notice such ambiguity in normal conversational processing tasks, and how is it that this failure is accomplished ?

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