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Working paper

Meaning relatedness in polysemous and homonymous words: an ERP study in Russian

Previous research showed that polysemous and homonymous words are processed differently. However, mechanisms underlying processing of ambiguous words are still unclear. The goal of the present study was to investigate comprehension of metonymies, metaphors, and homonyms using priming paradigm and the method of event-related potentials (ERPs). We asked participants to read two-word phrases with ambiguous words and make a sensicality judgement. The results demonstrated the difference between metonymic and metaphorical senses of polysemous words in the amount of priming for the literal sense. The priming effect between metonymic and literal senses supports the idea that these senses share a single representation in the mental lexicon. In contrast, metaphorical senses of polysemous words showed a very limited priming effect on literal senses of the same words. Similar results were observed for different meanings of homonymous words. We conclude that metaphorical senses should have separate representations in the mental lexicon similarly to homonyms.