Listening to puns elicits the co-activation of alternative homophone meanings during language production

Sebastian B. Rose, Katharina Spalek, Rasha Abdel Rahman

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Recent evidence suggests that lexical-semantic activation spread during language production can be dynamically shaped by contextual factors (Abdel Rahman & Melinger, 2011). In this study we investigated whether semantic processing modes can also affect lexical-semantic activation during word production. Specifically, we tested whether the processing of linguis-tic ambiguities, presented in the form of puns, has an influence on the co-activation of unre-lated meanings of homophones in a subsequent language production task. In a picture-word interference paradigm with word distractors that were semantically related or unrelated to the non-depicted meanings of homophones we found facilitation induced by related words only when participants listened to puns before object naming, but not when they heard jokes with unambiguous linguistic stimuli. This finding suggests that a semantic processing mode of ambiguity perception can induce the co-activation of alternative homophone meanings during speech planning.