Neurocognitive correlates of category ambiguous verb processing: The single versus dual lexical entry hypotheses

Sladjana Lukic*, Aya Meltzer-Asscher, James Higgins, Todd B. Parrish, Cynthia K. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Word-class ambiguous words engender greater processing time and fMRI (BOLD signal) activation than unambiguous ones. Theoretical accounts of this phenomenon suggest that words with multiple meanings (1) are associated with multiple lexical entries and thus require greater selection demands, or (2) undergo computationally expensive grammatical processes that convert words from one word-class to another. Using an fMRI grammaticality judgment task, we tested these accounts by examining word-class ambiguous polysemic (e.g., brush) and homonymic (e.g., bear) verbs, and unambiguous verbs (e.g., bake). Results showed that ambiguous verbs evoked longer response times and greater neural activation in the left inferior frontal and parietal gyri. However, homonymic verbs also showed increased left inferior frontal and temporal neural activations compared to polysemic verbs. This indicates that rather than having multiple lexical representations like homonyms, polysemic verbs may share a core representation with their noun counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Categorical ambiguity
  • Conversion/zero-morphology
  • Semantic control
  • Word-class
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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