Psychologists have run into difficulty in constructing a theory that explains how people classify things in categories named by phrases. In the first place, some of the most promising theories of classification appear to be cognitively inert—the mental representations that underlie these theories simply don't combine readily with others. These theories offer no obvious way to bond the representation of upside-down to the representation of daisy. Second, even where combination rules are possible, these rules are sometimes at odds with facts about sentence comprehension. So we have an impasse: We need a way to explain people's ability to understand multiword phrases and to classify instances as members of the categories such phrases denote, but the available options seem unacceptable for theoretical or empirical reasons. This chapter argues that one reason for the current impasse is that no monolithic theory can cope with all the demands on a cognitive system for combining lexical information. It suggests a second type of “sentence understanding” that accompanies classifying for categories named by phrases.
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