Homonymy in English

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s of phrases and clauses and so should tend to be longer because of durational lengthening concomitant with those boundaries. Indeed, Sorenson and Cooper found that the noun versions of words were longer in duration than their verb homonyms, and that these differences were due solely to their different distributions in sentences. The distributional differences between same class homonyms are likely to be smaller than those for different class homonyms, which should make them less easily distinguishable through contextually-driven acoustic modifications.

We will conclude by mentioning one implication of this work for another aspect of language use, namely linguistic humor. Puns and other jokes often rely on homonyms for their effects. The aesthetic impact of puns, in particular, requires that the audience make a temporary, but perceptible, misinterpretation of a sentence. The research of some linguists indicates that likelihood of misinterpretation will be greater with same class homonyms, and so these homonyms should be used more than different class homonyms in puns. Furthermore, the rated quality of same class homonyms should be higher than that for different class homonyms. More generally, whereas prior studies have treated homonyms equivalently in analysis and experimentation, our understanding of these words and how they are processed could be enriched by studying homonym subclasses that might differ on various dimensions such as lexical organization, language evolution, and language play.











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