Semantic Connectivity: An Approach for Analyzing Symbols in Semantic Networks

  • Carley K
  • Kaufer D
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Abstract

We argue that the notions of “symbol” and “symbolic connectivity” can be rigorously developed both from the point of view of the theoretical literature on the symbol and from the point of view of semantic network theory. The theoretical literature, inspired mainly by the literary metaphor, typically takes interpretive density as the chief dimension underlying symbolic expression. Density measures have also dominated the analysis of semantic networks. There is now a sizeable amount of work on the generation of such networks from linguistic data. The majority of that work locates the network and displays it. When attempts are made to analyze the network, the focus is typically on the density (i.e., the number of links) of particular concepts (which serve as the nodes) within the network and on the inferences that can be made about the communicative prominence of such concepts in light of their density. While density is a useful way of analyzing the communicative “connectivity” of a symbol in a message, it provides only one dimension for analyzing connectivity within a semantic network. In this article we offer two further dimensions — conductivity and consensus — with which to analyze semantic networks for connectivity. We illustrate a typology based on these three dimensions. These dimensions and the associated typology form a useful conceptual device that enables the researcher both to specify and differentiate semantic objects within a rich typology for a given domain of analysis. We show this device at work by applying the dimensions and typology to different communication contexts and by discussing other possible domains where they can be applied.

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Authors

  • Kathleen M Carley

  • David S Kaufer

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