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Eddington, Chelsea (2016) EFFECTS OF WITHIN- AND CROSS-LANGUAGE SEMANTIC AMBIGUITY ON LEARNING AND PROCESSING. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Most words in English are semantically ambiguous. Cross-language translation ambiguity occurs when a word in one language has multiple translations in another language. Both within and cross-language ambiguity affect the learning and processing of words in the first language (L1) and the second language (L2) (e.g., Armstrong & Plaut, 2008; Degani & Tokowicz, 2010). This dissertation examined how semantic similarity between ambiguous words’ meanings/senses affects learning and processing. Experiment 1 examined how semantic similarity impacts the learning of novel meanings for known words by teaching participants novel meanings that were related or unrelated to the known meaning of the vocabulary word. Participants recalled more meanings for vocabulary words with novel related meanings than unrelated meanings but no differences were found between related and unrelated meanings on a primed lexical decision task. In Experiment 2 we trained participants on a set of translation-ambiguous words that varied in semantic similarity between the multiple translations of the English word. Participants were slower and less accurate at recalling and translating words that had less related translations (e.g., Trunk – Rüssel (elephant), Kofferraum (car)) than words with more related translations (e.g., Sheet – Laken (bed), Blatt (paper)). Experiment 3 examined how L2 learners mapped meanings from ambiguous English words to L2 vocabulary by teaching participants only one translation that corresponded to one meaning of a semantically-ambiguous word (e.g., Trunk – Rüssel
(elephant)). Using a translation-recognition task in which the critical “no” response items were semantic distractors (e.g., responding “no” that Nose is not a translation of Rüssel (trunk)) we examined how the trained (e.g., elephant) and untrained (e.g., car) meanings interfered with semantic processing of the L2 vocabulary. Participants extended the trained and untrained meanings to words with related meanings (e.g., wrapping vs. academic paper) but only the trained meaning for words with unrelated meanings (e.g., elephant vs. car trunk). Overall, this dissertation sheds light on the interplay between meaning similarity and context and how these factors influence how meanings and words are connected, provides a better understanding of how monolinguals and L2 learners process and learn semantically-ambiguous words, and informs models of monolingual and bilingual semantic memory.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTokowicz, Natashatokowicz@pitt.eduTOKOWICZ
Committee MemberPerfetti, Charlesperfetti@pitt.eduPERFETTI
Committee MemberWarren, Tessatessa@pitt.eduTESSA
Committee MemberPlaut,
Date: 19 January 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 23 November 2015
Approval Date: 19 January 2016
Submission Date: 3 December 2015
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 299
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Semantic ambiguity, second language learning, translation ambiguity
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2016 17:34
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2021 06:15


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