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Sentential synonymity judgment

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Despite the acknowledged theoretical importance of sentential synonymity, there has been little interest in the psychological mechanisms responsible for recognizing it. Here an attempt is made to explore ways in which specific models originally devised for other particular psycholinguistic tasks (e.g., sentence-picture verification, three-term series problems, syllogistic reasoning) can be generalized to synonymity judgment and ways in which recent psychosemantic theories can be made more specific to deal with this same paradigm. Differential predictions from these models are derived for a set of spatiotemporal bidimensional comparative synonym pairs (e.g., High before Low, First above Second), and an experiment to test these predictions is reported. It is argued that, although the results are consonant with predictions from one type of model, they do not favor it definitively. This is because models of this type do not detail how bidimensional comparatives can be parsed into the same propositional representation and because other models can be subjected to further post hoc modifications to account for the data. Finally, general problems arising from attempts to adapt existing models to new tasks are discussed.

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Correspondence to Nigel Harvey.

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Harvey, N. Sentential synonymity judgment. J Psycholinguist Res 14, 219–262 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01067630

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