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    Variation in the contextuality of language: an empirical measure

    Heylighen, F and Dewaele, Jean-Marc (2002) Variation in the contextuality of language: an empirical measure. Foundations of Science 7 (3), pp. 293-340. ISSN 1233-1821.

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    The context of a linguistic expression is defined as everything outside the expression itself that is necessary for unambiguous interpretation of the expression. As meaning can be conveyed either by the implicit, shared context or by the explicit form of the expression, the degree of context-dependence or “contextuality” of communication will vary, depending on the situation and preferences of the language producer. An empirical measure of this variation is proposed, the “formality” or “F-score”, based on the frequencies of different word classes. Nouns, adjectives, articles and prepositions are more frequent in low-context or “formal” types of expression; pronouns, adverbs, verbs and interjections are more frequent in high-context styles. This measure adequately distinguishes different genres of language production using data for Dutch, French, Italian, and English. Factor analyses applied to data in 7 different languages produce a similar factor as the most important one. Both the data and the theoretical model suggest that contextuality decreases when unambiguous understanding becomes more important or more difficult to achieve, when the separation in space, time or background between the interlocutors increases, and when the speaker is male, introverted and/or academically educated.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Jean-Marc Dewaele
    Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2013 16:11
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:31


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