Polysemy and Verb Mutability: Differing Processes of Semantic Adjustment for Verbs and Nouns

AbstractPrevious research has found that verbs are more likely to adapt their meaning to the semantic context provided by a noun than the reverse (verb mutability). One possible explanation for this effect is that verbs are more polysemous than nouns, allowing for more sense-selection. We investigated this possibility by testing polysemy as a predictor of semantic adjustment. Our results replicated the verb mutability effect. However, we found no evidence that polysemy predicts meaning adjustment in verbs. Instead, polysemy was found to predict meaning adjustment in nouns, while semantic strain was found to predict meaning adjustment in verbs (but not nouns). This suggests that processes of meaning adjustment may be different for nouns vs verbs.

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