Revealing abstract semantic mechanisms through priming: the distributive/collective contrast

Mora Maldonado
Emmanuel Chemla
Benjamin Spector

Forthcoming in Cognition

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Materials, data and analyses

Sentences such as The bags are light allow both collective (i.e. they are light together) and distributive interpretations (i.e. each bag is light). We report the results of two experiments showing that this collective/distributive contrast gives rise to priming effects. These findings suggest that the abstract interpretative mechanisms posited to account for this ambiguity are represented as such during comprehension, independently of the specific verification strategies associated with each reading.

Keywords: plurals, distributivity, priming, ambiguity, gradable adjectives