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Event-related potential evidence for the early activation of literal meaning during comprehension of conventional lexical metaphors

Event-related potential evidence for the early activation of literal meaning during comprehension of conventional lexical metaphors

Neuropsychologia 50(8): 1730-1738

Among different types of metaphors, lexical metaphors are special in that they have been highly lexicalized and often suggested to be processed like non-metaphorical words. The present study examined two types of Chinese metaphorical words which are conceptualized through body parts. One has both a metaphorical meaning and a literal meaning actively in use, with the former dominant over the latter, referred to as the Met+Lit words. The other has only metaphorical meaning, referred to as Met-only words. In two experiments, lexical metaphor words were presented following a body-related picture and participants judged whether the picture and word were semantically related (Experiment 1) or made lexical decision on the word ignoring the picture (Experiment 2). The N400 ERP responses showed a clear semantic priming effect for the Met+Lit words compared with the non-ambiguous neutral words, with latencies comparable to that in Met-only words in both experiments. The results were interpreted to indicate that the literal meaning as a subordinate meaning was activated during the early comprehension of conventional lexical metaphors, supporting the notion of dual access to metaphorical meaning and literal meaning in metaphor processing.

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Accession: 053091575

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 22561889

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.03.027

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