Resisting contextual information: You can't put a salient meaning down

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Two experiments support the graded saliencehypothesis (Giora1997, 1999, 2003;Peleget al.2001, 2004), which assumes that earlyprocessing involves distinct mechanisms–linguistic and contextual–that do not interact but run parallel. While contextual processes makeup an integrative, top-down mechanism that benefits from linguisticand extra-linguistic information, the linguistic mechanism is modular(Fodor 1983). Using Vu et al.’s (2000) materials, Experiment 1shows that the sentential position of a target word (initial vs. final) iscrucial forthe operation of the global, predictive mechanism, whoseeffects, accumulated in prior discourse, mask lexical effects in final,but not in initial position. Experiment 2 shows that even in asentential position that favors contextual effects (i.e. sentence finalposition, see Peleget al.2001, 2004), lexical access is not affected:Salient meanings are activated upon encounter of the lexicalstimulus, regardless of contextual information to the contrary. Takentogether, these findings argue against directaccess models, whichsuggest that context can selectively activate the appropriate meaning,regardless ofsalience (see Vu and Paul 1998;Vuet al.2000
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-44
Number of pages32
JournalLodz Papers in Pragmatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Graded salience hypothesis
  • sentential position
  • context effects
  • predictive context
  • ambiguity resolution


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