Relation diversity and ease of processing for opaque and transparent English compounds

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Emerging evidence suggests that integrating the constituents of compound words involves semantic composition and that this meaning construction process draws on relation information linking the constituents. Research with novel compounds (for which semantic composition is obligatory) has found that relation structures compete for selection during semantic composition and that increased competition results in increased processing difficulty. The current project investigates whether relation competition occurs in the processing of established transparent and opaque English compounds. The results indicate that more relation competition is associated with more difficult processing of compound words, even those that are semantically opaque. This indicates that a relation-based semantic composition process is initiated during the processing of established compounds, even for semantically opaque compounds where the final interpretation cannot be relational. Understanding the semantic composition process is critically important in creating a complete theory of compound processing.


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