Building a Weighted Dictionary for Referential Activity

Wilma Bucci and Bernard Maskit

The Weighted Referential Activity Dictionary (WRAD) is a dictionary (word list) containing 696 items, with weights ranging between -1 and +1, used for computer modeling of a psycholinguistic variable, Referential Activity (RA), in spoken and written language. The RA dimension concerns the degree to which language reflects connection to nonverbal experience, including imagery and bodily and emotional experience, and evokes corresponding experience in the listener or reader. RA is primarily indicated by attributes of style independent of content. High RA language is vivid and evocative; low RA language may be abstract, general, vague or diffuse. RA ratings have been widely used in psycholinguistic and clinical research. RA was initially measured using scales scored by judges; the CRA, a binary dictionary, was the first computerized RA measure developed to model judges’ RA ratings. The WRAD, a weighted dictionary, shows higher correlations with RA ratings in all text types tested. The development of the WRAD and its applications are made possible by the authors’ Discourse Attributes Analysis Program (DAAP), which uses smooth local weighted averaging to capture the ebb and flow of RA and similar variables.


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