Applied Linguistics Lunchtime Seminar Series: Professor Jenni Rodd

24th May 2021 : 12:00 - 13:00

Category: Public Seminar

Research Group: Applied Linguistics

Speaker: Professor Jenni Rodd

Location: Teams

Convener: Faidra Faitaki

Audience: Public



‘Settling Into Semantic Space: An Ambiguity-Focused Account of Word-Meaning

Professor Jenni Rodd (UCL)

Most words are ambiguous: individual wordforms (e.g., “run”) can map onto multiple different interpretations depending on their sentence context (e.g., “the athlete/politician/river runs”). Models of word-meaning access must therefore explain how listeners and readers are able to rapidly settle on a single, contextually appropriate meaning for each word that they encounter. I will present a new account of word-meaning access that places semantic disambiguation at its core.

The model has three key characteristics. (i) Lexical-semantic knowledge is viewed as a high-dimensional space; familiar word meanings correspond to stable states within this lexical-semantic space. (ii) Multiple linguistic and paralinguistic cues can influence the settling process by which the system resolves on one of these familiar meanings. (iii) Learning mechanisms play a vital role in facilitating rapid word-meaning access by shaping and maintaining high quality lexical-semantic knowledge.

Bio: Professor Jenni Rodd conducts research into how we understand the meanings of the words that we hear or read, and how we combine together the information from individual words to construct representations of the meanings of sentences. She has a particular interest in how we use our recent and long-term experience with language to improve the efficiency of these processes. She is the director of The Word Lab and a Professor of Cognitive Psychology in the Department of Experimental Psychology, UCL.