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Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



conceptual combination, eye movement, noun-nouns, context


Two experiments examined processing of "near-nonsense" noun-noun combinations (e.g., dictionary treatment, olive signals). In the first experiment, readers’ eye movements were monitored as they read sentences containing such combinations, or control sentences containing easy-to-interpret adjective-noun combinations. A preceding context sentence either did or did not support a specific interpretation of the critical noun-noun combination. The earliest measures of processing difficulty were not modulated by the context manipulation, but on later measures, the potentially helpful context did alleviate difficulty. In the second experiment, participants provided detailed interpretations of the critical combinations, with and without the potentially helpful context sentence; the results confirmed that the context sentences encouraged specific interpretations of these combinations. The results suggest that a noun-noun combination is initially interpreted without taking into account the immediate context, but that this context may ultimately play a critical role.


First Advisor

Andrew L Cohen