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An approach to natural language meaning-based parsing in which the unit of linguistic knowledge is the word rather than the rewrite rule is described. In the word expert parser, knowledge about language is distributed across a population of procedural experts, each representing a word of the language, and each an expert at diagnosing that word's intended usage in context. The parser is structured around a coroutine control environment in which the generator-like word experts ask questions and exchange information in coming to collective agreement on sentence meaning. The word expert theory is advanced as a better cognitive model of human language expertise than the traditional rule-based approach. The technical discussion is organized around examples taken from the prototype LISP system which implements parts of the theory.