Property activation during the Interpretation of Noun-Noun Compounds


Noun-noun compounding is the most productive way of word formation in many languages. The past two decades have witnessed highly diversified studies in noun-noun compounds from perspectives of linguistics, psychology, computer science and so on (Sweetser 1999; Gagne 2002; Devereux & Costello 2005; Butnariu & Veale 2008; Domínguez 2009). In this paper, we carry out three experiments to examine the process of property activation during the interpretation of noun-noun compounds. The first experiment aims at testifying whether we are more inclined to interpret a novel noun-noun compound with reference to analytic or perceptual properties of the referent. The second experiment tests participants’ preference for metaphorical or relational association in interpreting novel noun-noun compounds. The third experiment testifies whether cognitive development has any impact on noun-noun compound interpretation. Results from the experiments indicate that cognitive factors, such as encyclopedic knowledge, conceptual similarities and contiguities, cognitive development, influence the interpretation of novel noun-noun compounds.

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