The time course of familiar metonymy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes


Metonymic words have multiple related meanings, such as college, as in the building ("John walked into the college") or the educational institution ("John was promoted by the college"). Most researchers have found support for direct access models of metonymy but one recent study, Lowder and Gordon (2013), found delayed reading times for metonymic sentences relative to literal controls, in support of an indirect access account. We conducted a speed-accuracy-tradeoff experiment to test whether their result was caused by lower retrieval probabilities, consistent with direct or indirect access models of metonymy, or slower retrieval dynamics, consistent only with indirect access accounts. We found lower retrieval probabilities for the metonymic sentences but no difference in the dynamics parameters. These results therefore suggest that literal senses do not have priority during processing and that established metonymic senses can be accessed directly. (PsycINFO Database Record


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Metonymy, Pragmatics, Sentence comprehension