The Organization of the Mental Lexicon - The Dispute Between Monosemy and Polysemy
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In linguistics, there are two views on how senses of polysemous words are organized in the mental lexicon. The monosemic view states that there is one core meaning from which all other meanings are derived through context. The polysemic view states that multiple senses of a word are separately stored. This study investigated the validity of these two standpoints experimentally. The process of conversion was applied to twelve Dutch nouns in order to create twelve novel verbs. In this way, participants had not encountered these words before and by that, the process of constructing meanings of words could be further explored. Four tasks were performed: (1) an association task, in which the participants had to come up with their own meaning of the verbs, (2) a prototype task, in which four meaning possibilities were presented to the participants from which they had to choose the most prototypical one, (3) a sorting task, in which the participants had to sort these meanings into three categories: ‘concrete meanings’, ‘abstract meanings’ and ‘other meanings’, and (4) a rating task, in which the participants had to rate three sentence pairs (concrete meaning-concrete meaning, concrete-other, concreteabstract) per novel verb. The results of the experiment are presented in a newly proposed model: The Core Meaning Model. This model consists of three types: (1) there are words that have a strong core meaning, this corresponds to the monosemic view, (2) there are words that have an average core meaning with other meanings activated as well, this supports a combination of the monosemic and polysemic view, (3) there are words that have a weak core meaning with other meanings highly activated as well, this mainly supports the polysemic view.