Seminar at Royal Holloway – ‘How do we understand what words mean?’

Royal Holloway University of London, Egham

Dr Jenni Rodd was recently invited to give a talk at Royal Holloway University of London on Wednesday 11th January 2017. Details about her talk can be found below:

Title: ‘How do we understand what words mean?’

Abstract: ‘Being able to understand exactly what each word in a sentence means is an essential component of language comprehension. This is a relatively challenging task because the vast majority of common words have multiple possible interpretations. The conventional view of how listeners/readers disambiguate words with multiple meanings emphasizes just two cues in facilitating access to the correct meaning: (i) the immediate sentence context (i.e. the dog’s/tree’s bark) and (ii) the relative frequencies of the two meanings. Here I propose that fluent comprehension requires that listeners rapidly integrate a far richer set of statistical cues that point to which meaning the speaker was more likely to have intended. Specifically, I present data from both large scale web-based experiments and lab-based experiments that demonstrate that listeners’ make use of (i) their recent experience with the ambiguous word itself, and (ii) their knowledge about the linguistic background of the speaker.’

Further information is available here: