Disambiguating ambiguity: A comparative analysis of lexical decision-making in native and non-native English speakers
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Ambiguity resolution, Homonymy, Homophones, L2 proficiency, L2 word familiarity, Polysemy.

How to Cite

Kreishan, L., Abbadi, R., & Al-Saidat, E. . (2024). Disambiguating ambiguity: A comparative analysis of lexical decision-making in native and non-native English speakers. International Journal of English Language and Literature Studies, 13(2), 139–156. https://doi.org/10.55493/5019.v13i2.5003


Making lexical decisions to disambiguate multiple-meaning words or senses provides clear evidence of word recognition, processing systems and representation in the mental lexicon. This comparative study explores non-native English speakers’ and native English speakers’ cognitive mechanisms employed in phonological and lexical ambiguity resolution embedded in auditory and visual utterances. English proficiency and vocabulary tests and two lexical decision tests were conducted with 35 EFL undergraduate students and four native English monolingual speakers. The effects of factors such as L2 proficiency and familiarity on ambiguity resolution  in addition to the resolution techniques employed were also explored. Our findings suggest that the differences in disambiguating L2 words among native English speakers and non-native English speakers might indicate different comprehension, representation and processing patterns. The ambiguity type most likely has a major role in determining the diverse phenomenon of ambiguity resolution.  More specifically, there was evidence of significant differences in homophone use, metaphorical polysemy and homonym ambiguity resolution between the two groups, excluding metonymous polysemy. Homophones and polysemy were the least problematic and challenging lexical ambiguity types unlike homonymy for the non-native group. Other results also revealed the positive effects of L2 proficiency and L2 word familiarity on ambiguity resolution. Thus, this study also has important implications considering the vital role of vocabulary in L2 competence and knowledge.

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