Access to Word Meanings During Spoken Language Comprehension: Effects of Sentential Semantic Context

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In 3 cross-modal priming experiments, we investigated whether access to a word's meaning is affected by the semantic context in which it is heard or is exhaustive and context-independent. We probed access of nonassociated semantic properties and normatively associated words before and after prime offset. Whereas associated targets were primed context-independently, access to semantic property targets was affected by the sentential context. Semantic property targets showed greater priming in a sentence biasing to a specific semantic property than in a neutral condition, even when this bias made the target property irrelevant rather than relevant. These results cannot be accounted for by current exhaustive access or context-dependency theories of lexical access.

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