Lexical ambiguity resolution was examined in children aged 7 to 10 years and adults. In Experiment 1, participants heard sentences supporting one (or neither) meaning of a balanced ambiguous word in a cross-modal naming paradigm. Naming latencies for context-congruent versus context-incongruent targets and judgements of the relatedness of targets to the sentence served as indices of appropriate context use. While younger children were faster to respond to related targets regardless of the sentence context, older children and adults showed priming only for context-appropriate targets. In Experiment 2, only a single-word context preceded the homophone, and in contrast to Experiment 1, all groups showed contextual sensitivity. Individual working-memory span and inhibition ability were also measured in Experiment 2, and more mature executive function abilities were associated with greater contextual sensitivity. These findings support a developmental model whereby sentential context use for lexical ambiguity resolution increases with age, cognitive processing capacity, and reading skill.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Physiology (medical)