Distributional hypothesis

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The Distributional Hypothesis in Linguistics is that words that occur in the same contexts tend to have similar meanings (Harris, 1954). The underlying idea that "a word is characterized by the company it keeps" was popularized by Firth (1957). The Distributional Hypothesis is the basis for Statistical Semantics. Although the Distributional Hypothesis originated in Linguistics, it is now receiving attention in Cognitive Science (McDonald and Ramscar, 2001).

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See also


  • Firth, J.R. (1957). A synopsis of linguistic theory 1930-1955. In Studies in Linguistic Analysis, pp. 1-32. Oxford: Philological Society. Reprinted in F.R. Palmer (ed.), Selected Papers of J.R. Firth 1952-1959, London: Longman (1968).
  • Harris, Z. (1954). Distributional structure. Word, 10(23): 146-162.
  • McDonald, S., and Ramscar, M. (2001). Testing the distributional hypothesis: The influence of context on judgements of semantic similarity. In Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pages 611-616.