Semantic relations and compound transparency: A regression study in CARIN theory

Hien Pham, Harald Baayen


According to the carin theory of Gagne & Shoben (1997), conceptual relations play an important role in compound interpretation. This study develops three measures gauging the role of conceptual relations, and pits these measures against measures based on latent semantic analysis (Landauer & Dumais, 1997). The carin measures successfully predict response latencies in a familiarity categorization task, in a semantic transparency task, and in visual lexical decision. Of the measures based on latent semantic analysis, only a measure orthogonal to the conceptual relations, which instead gauges the extent to which the concepts for the compound’s head and the compound itself are discriminated, also reached significance. Results further indicate that in tasks requiring careful assesment of the meaning of the compound, general knowledge of conceptual relations plays a central role, whereas in the lexical decision task, attention shifts to co-activated meanings and the specifics of the conceptual relations realized in the compound’s modifier family.