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ERIC Number: EJ1056021
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Jul
Pages: 19
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
It's Hard to Offend the College: Effects of Sentence Structure on Figurative-Language Processing
Lowder, Matthew W.; Gordon, Peter C.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v39 n4 p993-1011 Jul 2013
Previous research has given inconsistent evidence about whether familiar metonyms are more difficult to process than literal expressions. In 2 eye-tracking-while-reading experiments, we tested the hypothesis that the difficulty associated with processing metonyms would depend on sentence structure. Experiment 1 examined comprehension of familiar place-for-institution metonyms (e.g., "college") when they were an argument of the main verb and showed that they are more difficult to process in a figurative context (e.g., "offended the college") than in a literal context (e.g., "photographed the college"). Experiment 2 demonstrated that when they are arguments of the main verb, familiar metonyms are more difficult to process than frequency-and-length-matched nouns that refer to people (e.g., "offended the leader), but that this difficulty was reduced when the metonym appeared as part of an adjunct phrase (e.g., "offended the honor of the college"). The results support the view that figurative-language processing is moderated by sentence structure. When the metonym was an argument of the verb, the results were consistent with the pattern predicted by the indirect-access model of figurative-language comprehension. In contrast, when the metonym was part of an adjunct phrase, the results were consistent with the pattern predicted by the direct-access model.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: North Carolina
Grant or Contract Numbers: R01 HD060440-06A2