Volume 12, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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There is an on-going debate about how the language system handles expressions that may refer to different word senses. Some theories propose derivational operations triggered by a type-mismatch; others assume underspecified lexical representations that engage in sense selection. Previous studies yielded mixed evidence. To further understand the diverse results and to tease apart type conflicts from sense selection, we conducted an ERP study on one type of metonymy using question-answer pairs. We capitalized on the fact that the metonymic relation could be anticipated by a -word, yielding a type clash between the -word and the predicate that cannot be resolved in the question ( vs. ) – in contrast to the answer (). These conditions were contrasted with a non-metonymic reading. The results revealed a pronounced N400 at the verb of the question in contrast to the questions without a type clash, and no reliable differences at the artist’s name in the answer. We therefore argue for an underspecification account for this metonymy-type which is not preceded by the detection of a type conflict. In comparison with other metonymy-types, this substantiates a classification of sense alternations into sense selection and sense creation.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): ERP; experimental pragmatics; metonymy; N400; type clash; underspecification
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