To comprehend a pun involving a homonym (e.g., The prince with a bad tooth got a crown), both meanings of the homonym must be accessed and selected. Previous ERP studies have shown that the N400 reflects lexicosemantic processing, but none have directly investigated the N400 elicited by homonyms in the unique context of puns. Here, N400 priming effects showed that the dual context of puns (e.g., the primes prince and tooth) did not facilitate homonym processing in comparison to single dominant biasing (e.g., The prince with a bad leg got a crown) or subordinate biasing (e.g., The adult with a bad tooth got a crown) conditions. However, homonyms did elicit a less negative N400 (i.e., priming) in the pun condition in comparison to the neutral context condition (e.g., The adult with a bad leg got a crown). These findings are interpreted in terms of the dominant advantage and subordinate bias effect posited by the reordered access model of homonym processing, and in terms of N400 amplitude as an index of how consistently various sources of semantic featural information converge on one lexical item, even when two lexical items must be activated for comprehension.
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