ABSTRACT

In the past few years, cognitive scientists have made tremendous strides in the understanding of how word meaning is represented , processed, and acquired. Simultaneously, research has progressed on a number of fronts : First , our knowledge has greatly expanded regarding fairly basic issues such as the general nature and structure of word meaning (e.g., Barsalou, 1987; Cohen & Murphy, 1984; Medin & Smith , 1984) and how such structure is reflected when word meanings are combined (Hampton, 1987; Medin & Shoben , 1988). Significant advances have also been made in our understanding of how very young children come to learn the meanings of new words (Markman, 1989) and how vocabulary learning proceeds in older children and adults (McKeown, 1985; Nagy & Anderson , 1984). Our knowledge of how word meaning is processed in language understanding has been amplified by studies of word recognition in meaningful contexts (e .g., Neely, 1991; Stanovich & West , 1983; Schwanenflugel, 1991) and studies of the processing of words with varying semantic characteristics (e. g. , Balota & Chumbley, 1984; Schwanenflugel, Harnishfeger, & Stowe, 1988). Moreover, as a field, we have become much more aware of the neurological contributions to the processing of word meanings (Burgess & Simpson, 1988; Chiarello, 1988). Yet, although these various advances offer the promise of a more integrated and comprehensive understanding of the psychology of word meaning, these approaches have often seemed somewhat fragmented and isolated from one another.