Salience and Context Effects: Two Are Better Than One

Orna Peleg, Rachel Giora, Ofer Fein
2001 Metaphor and Symbol  
This study provides evidence supporting the hypothesis that language comprehension involves 2 separate mechanisms that run in parallel: a linguistic mechanism and a contextual mechanism. The linguistic mechanism (e.g., lexical access) is modular and stimulus driven; it is a bottom-up, perceptual mechanism, induced by a lexical stimulus to search the mental lexicon for its match. This mechanism is encapsulated with respect to nonlinguistic information and thus operates locally (i.e., on the word
more » ... (i.e., on the word level). Lexical access is exhaustive and ordered: Salient meanings are accessed faster. Contextual facilitation, on the other hand, is the outcome of a central, expectation-driven mechanism that operates globally during language comprehension at the point where prior linguistic information has already been processed and interfaced with other cognitive processes (e.g., inferencing). Experiment 1 indicates that contextual facilitation can occur even before lexical accessing takes place, fostering an impression of a selective process. Experiment 2 shows that the target word's position in the sentence (initial vs. noninitial) is crucial for the operation of the predictive mechanism. Thus, we would not expect contextual meanings to outweigh salient meanings at the beginning of sentences. For more than 2 decades, linguists and cognitive scientists have looked into how and when contextual information affects initial processing. In this article, we also wish to shed light, primarily empirically, on how salient meanings and senses of
doi:10.1080/10926488.2001.9678894 fatcat:23hv6wpnwndobf2au76qjvdc2q