Categorizing words through semantic memory navigation
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- Borge-Holthoefer, J. & Arenas, A. Eur. Phys. J. B (2010) 74: 265. doi:10.1140/epjb/e2010-00058-9
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Semantic memory is the cognitive system devoted to storage and retrieval of conceptual knowledge. Empirical data indicate that semantic memory is organized in a network structure. Everyday experience shows that word search and retrieval processes provide fluent and coherent speech, i.e. are efficient. This implies either that semantic memory encodes, besides thousands of words, different kind of links for different relationships (introducing greater complexity and storage costs), or that the structure evolves facilitating the differentiation between long-lasting semantic relations from incidental, phenomenological ones. Assuming the latter possibility, we explore a mechanism to disentangle the underlying semantic backbone which comprises conceptual structure (extraction of categorical relations between pairs of words), from the rest of information present in the structure. To this end, we first present and characterize an empirical data set modeled as a network, then we simulate a stochastic cognitive navigation on this topology. We schematize this latter process as uncorrelated random walks from node to node, which converge to a feature vectors network. By doing so we both introduce a novel mechanism for information retrieval, and point at the problem of category formation in close connection to linguistic and non-linguistic experience.