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Polysemy has attracted much interdisciplinary interest in recent times. Recent discussions in psycholinguistics focus on the different processing profiles of polysemous and homonymous words, and on how to explain such different profiles. Much current research assumes that while homonymous meanings are stored in different lexical entries in the mental lexicon, polysemous senses relate to just one lexical representation, be this a list of senses or a core meaning formed by features common to all the different senses. However, there is growing skepticism towards such a one-representation hypothesis. After differentiating regular and irregular polysemies along several dimensions (not only in terms of sense representation, but also in terms of sources, acquisition and word class distribution), this paper argues that the variants of the one representation model can meet some of the challenges that have been raised. However, there are further challenges that have not yet been considered. On the one hand, nested polysemies (senses generated on the basis of iterations of metonymies or metaphors) put some pressure on the idea that senses of irregular polysemies share some set of features. On the other hand, sharing some features that could constitute a core meaning may not be sufficient for entering in co-activation patterns. In sum, while the paper defends the one-representation hypothesis in the light of recent skepticism, it also calls for further research and an eventual reformulation of the hypothesis.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: lexical entry ; polysemy ; copredication ; core meanings
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