Abstract Title

Individual Differences in Using Context to Resolve Phonological Ambiguity

Abstract

During silent reading, multiple properties of a word are activated when a word is first encountered in print, including the word’s orthography (spelling), its meaning, and its phonology (sound). Additionally, words can be ambiguous with respect to these properties. For example, CALF (cow/part of a leg) has multiple meanings, and SEWER (drain/tailor) has multiple meanings associated with different pronunciations. Readers process these different types of ambiguous words in different ways (Folk & Morris, 1995). Readers can use sentence context to help resolve ambiguity. However, recent research suggests that higher- and lower-skill readers may use context in different ways to determine which meaning of an ambiguous word is intended (Abraham & Folk, 2017). This study investigated the role that the phonology (sound) of a word plays in activating meaning during silent reading and how reading skill affects this process. Two types of ambiguous words were embedded in sentences: noun-verb ambiguous homophones and heterophones. The noun-verb homophones had distinct meanings attached to different parts of speech (e.g. DUCK-bird/bend), and the noun-verb heterophones had distinct noun and verb meanings that were also pronounced differently (e.g., SOW-pig/plant). Sentence context that indicated the part of speech of the ambiguous word preceded it. Results indicate that heterophones were more difficult to process, despite the prior context, indicating that the sound of a word is activated early in word processing, even in silent reading. Thus, phonological activation contributes to activating word meaning during silent reading. Additionally, reading skill influenced how readers processed ambiguous words.

Modified Abstract

This study investigated the role the phonology (sound) of a word plays in activating meaning during silent reading and how reading skill affects this process. Two types of ambiguous words were embedded in sentences. Homophones had distinct meanings attached to different parts of speech (e.g. DUCK-bird/bend), and heterophones had distinct noun and verb meanings that were also pronounced differently (e.g., SOW-pig/plant). Context that indicated the part of speech of the ambiguous word preceded it. Results indicate that heterophones were more difficult to process, despite the prior context, indicating that the sound of a word is activated early in word processing, even in silent reading. Thus, phonological activation contributes to activating word meaning during silent reading. Additionally, reading skill influenced how readers processed ambiguous words.

Research Category

Psychology

Primary Author's Major

Psychology

Mentor #1 Information

Dr. Jocelyn Folk

Start Date

5-4-2018 1:00 PM

Research Area

English Language and Literature | Language and Literacy Education | Reading and Language

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Apr 5th, 1:00 PM

Individual Differences in Using Context to Resolve Phonological Ambiguity

During silent reading, multiple properties of a word are activated when a word is first encountered in print, including the word’s orthography (spelling), its meaning, and its phonology (sound). Additionally, words can be ambiguous with respect to these properties. For example, CALF (cow/part of a leg) has multiple meanings, and SEWER (drain/tailor) has multiple meanings associated with different pronunciations. Readers process these different types of ambiguous words in different ways (Folk & Morris, 1995). Readers can use sentence context to help resolve ambiguity. However, recent research suggests that higher- and lower-skill readers may use context in different ways to determine which meaning of an ambiguous word is intended (Abraham & Folk, 2017). This study investigated the role that the phonology (sound) of a word plays in activating meaning during silent reading and how reading skill affects this process. Two types of ambiguous words were embedded in sentences: noun-verb ambiguous homophones and heterophones. The noun-verb homophones had distinct meanings attached to different parts of speech (e.g. DUCK-bird/bend), and the noun-verb heterophones had distinct noun and verb meanings that were also pronounced differently (e.g., SOW-pig/plant). Sentence context that indicated the part of speech of the ambiguous word preceded it. Results indicate that heterophones were more difficult to process, despite the prior context, indicating that the sound of a word is activated early in word processing, even in silent reading. Thus, phonological activation contributes to activating word meaning during silent reading. Additionally, reading skill influenced how readers processed ambiguous words.