Evidence for Serial Coercion: A Time Course Analysis Using the Visual-World Paradigm

Christoph Scheepers, Frank Keller, Mirella Lapata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metonymic verbs like start or enjoy often occur with artifact-denoting complements (e.g., The artist started the picture) although semantically they require eventdenoting complements (e.g., The artist started painting the picture). In case of artifact-denoting objects, the complement is assumed to be type shifted (or coerced) into an event representation to conform to the verb’s semantic restrictions. Psycholinguistic research has provided evidence for this kind of enriched composition: readers experience processing difficulty when faced with metonymic constructions compared to non-metonymic controls. However, slower reading times for metonymic constructions could also be due to competition between multiple interpretations that are being entertained in parallel whenever a metonymic verb is encountered. Using the visual-world paradigm, we devised an experiment which enabled us to determine the time course of metonymic interpretation in relation to non-metonymic controls. The experiment provided evidence in favour of a serial coercion process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages31
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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