Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 88–94 | Cite as

The interpretation of ambiguous trimorphemic words in sentence context

  • Alexander Pollatsek
  • Denis Drieghe
  • Linnaea Stockall
  • Roberto G. de Almeida
Brief Reports


Many trimorphemic words are structurally and semantically ambiguous. For example, unlock-able can either be un-lockable (cannot be locked) or unlock-able (can be unlocked). Which interpretation is preferred and whether the preceding sentence context affects the initial interpretation is not clear from prior research. The present experiment embedded ambiguous trimorphemic words in sentence contexts, manipulated whether or not preceding context disambiguated the meaning, and examined the pattern of fixation durations on the ambiguous word and the remainder of the text. The results indicated that the unlock-able interpretation was preferred; moreover, preceding context did not exert a significant effect until the eyes had initially exited from the target word.


Target Word Ambiguous Word Sentence Context Preceding Context Prior Context 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Pollatsek
    • 1
  • Denis Drieghe
    • 2
  • Linnaea Stockall
    • 3
  • Roberto G. de Almeida
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherst
  2. 2.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Concordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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