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Effects of semantic neighborhood density in abstract and concrete words.


ABSTRACT: Concrete and abstract words are thought to differ along several psycholinguistic variables, such as frequency and emotional content. Here, we consider another variable, semantic neighborhood density, which has received much less attention, likely because semantic neighborhoods of abstract words are difficult to measure. Using a corpus-based method that creates representations of words that emphasize featural information, the current investigation explores the relationship between neighborhood density and concreteness in a large set of English nouns. Two important observations emerge. First, semantic neighborhood density is higher for concrete than for abstract words, even when other variables are accounted for, especially for smaller neighborhood sizes. Second, the effects of semantic neighborhood density on behavior are different for concrete and abstract words. Lexical decision reaction times are fastest for words with sparse neighborhoods; however, this effect is stronger for concrete words than for abstract words. These results suggest that semantic neighborhood density plays a role in the cognitive and psycholinguistic differences between concrete and abstract words, and should be taken into account in studies involving lexical semantics. Furthermore, the pattern of results with the current feature-based neighborhood measure is very different from that with associatively defined neighborhoods, suggesting that these two methods should be treated as separate measures rather than two interchangeable measures of semantic neighborhoods.

SUBMITTER: Reilly M 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5612894 | BioStudies | 2017-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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