Analysing Ambiguous Nouns and Verbs with Quantum Contextuality Tools

Daphne Wang, Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh, Samson Abramsky, Victor H Cervantes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psycholinguistic research uses eye-tracking to show that polysemous words are disambiguated differently from homonymous words, and that ambiguous verbs are disambiguated differently than ambiguous nouns. Research in Compositional Distributional Semantics uses cosine distances to show that verbs are disambiguated more efficiently in the context of their subjects and objects than when on their own. These two frameworks both focus on one ambiguous word at a time and neither considers ambiguous phrases with two (or more) ambiguous words. We borrow methods and measures from Quantum Information Theory, the framework of Contextuality-by-Default and degrees of contextual influences, and work with ambiguous subject-verb and verb-object phrases of English, where both the subject/object and the verb are ambiguous. We show that differences in the processing of ambiguous verbs versus ambiguous nouns, as well as between different levels of ambiguity in homonymous versus polysemous nouns and verbs can be modelled using the averages of the degrees of their contextual influences.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-420
JournalJournal of Cognitive Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Contextuality
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Senses and Meanings
  • Ambiguity


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