A Cross-linguistic Study into the Contribution of Affective Connotation in the Lexico-semantic Representation of Concrete and Abstract Concepts

AbstractWords carry affective connotations, but the role of these connotations in the representation of meaning is not well understood. Like other aspects of meaning, connotation might be culture or language-specific. This study uses a large-scale relatedness judgment task to determine the role of affective connotations in concrete and abstract words in English, Rioplatense Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. Across languages, word valence, or how positive or negative a word is, was one of the main organizing factors in both concrete and abstract concepts. Moreover, predicted culture-specific affective connotations were reliably found in the similarity space of abstract concepts. A follow-up analysis was conducted to investigate whether distributional semantic representations derived from language similarly encodes these connotations using word embeddings. The language models did only partly captured the overall similarity structure and the affective connotations shaping it.

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