Familiarity, abstractness, and the interpretive strategies of noun-noun combinations

Xu Xu, Bing Ran

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Conceptual combination refers to the cognitive process by which people combine two or more concepts to represent a new conceptual entity. Literature has studied the primary interpretive strategies of a conceptual combination denoted by two nouns (e.g., robin snake): relation-linking (e.g., a robin snake is a snake that eats robins) and property-mapping (e.g., a robin snake is a snake that has red breast). This study examined two factors in relation to the choice of interpretive strategies in human cognition: familiarity with the combination and abstractness of the two constituent concepts. A total of 49 participants evaluated 240 noun-noun combinations. Both familiarity and the abstractness of the constituent concepts were found positively associated with the likelihood of the choice of relation-linking strategy. In addition, the abstractness of the modifiers was more predictive of the likelihood than the abstractness of the head nouns, suggesting that the cognitive process of combining concepts is largely influenced by the characteristics of component concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781629488936
ISBN (Print)9781629488905
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Familiarity, abstractness, and the interpretive strategies of noun-noun combinations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this