A context-sensitive representation of word meanings

Henry M. Halff, Andrew Ortony, Richard C. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study provides a numerical representation of contextual effects on the meanings of words, constructed from the order judgments of 19 subjects concerning the word "red" in 19 sentences. Subjects judged whether or not the red object mentioned in a sentence was redder than, less red than, or could be equally as red as the red object mentioned in each of the other sentences. These judgments were well described as an interval order. This means that the red ascribed in a sentence can be represented by a real interval with judgments of equally red corresponding to overlapping intervals. Semiorder axioms were not met, indicating that the width of the interval varied from sentence to sentence. Possible ways of incorporating the result into theories of semantic memory were discussed, as well as ways of accounting for the pronounced individual differences which were observed. The research described herein was supported by the National Institute of Education under Contract HEW NIE-G-74-0007.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-383
Number of pages6
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1976

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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