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Dissertation

My Ph.D. thesis is titled 'The "resolution" of verb meaning in context'. I'm fairly proud of the title, because as far as I can tell it's both a self-referential three-level pun as well as being a germane example of the issues that I study -- at each level of the pun.

My thesis presents research on the processing of semantic ambiguity, and "resolution" is itself semantically ambiguous between at least two readings, the act or process of resolving, or the amount of detail something contains (as in the resolution of an image). Additionally, the fact that the word "resolution" is enclosed in quotes in the title conventionally implies a sense of doubt as to what extent resolution has really taken place. Moreover, the “process of resolving” interpretation was probably activated first when you read the title, followed by the retrieval of other possible meanings. All of these issues are highly relevant to the work presented in the thesis.

I address several questions: how our knowledge of word meanings is represented; how much detail those representations contain; how we make use of that information when resolving meaning in context, particularly at early stages of comprehension, and how our depth of semantic processing varies varies from deep to shallow in response to situational constraints. Theoretical models of linguistic meaning, psychological findings on language processing, and research on decision making and concept representation more generally are all important underpinnings of the present research.