Word meaning access: The one-to-many mapping from form to meaning
This chapter focuses on the process by which stored knowledge about a word’s form (orthographic or phonological) maps onto stored knowledge about its meaning. This mapping is made challenging by the ambiguity that is ubiquitous in natural language: most familiar words can refer to multiple different concepts. This one-to-many mapping from form to meaning within the lexicon is a core feature of word-meaning access. Fluent, accurate word-meaning access requires that comprehenders integrate multiple cues in order to determine which of a word’s possible semantic features are relevant in the current context. Specifically, word-meaning access is guided by (i) distributional information about the a priori relative likelihoods of different word meanings and (ii) a wide range of contextual cues that indicate which meanings are most likely in the current context.