Semantic similarity, predictability, and models of sentence processing

Douglas Roland*, Hongoak Yun, Jean Pierre Koenig, Gail Mauner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of word predictability and shared semantic similarity between a target word and other words that could have taken its place in a sentence on language comprehension are investigated using data from a reading time study, a sentence completion study, and linear mixed-effects regression modeling. We find that processing is facilitated if the different possible words that could occur in a given context are semantically similar to each other, meaning that processing is affected not only by the nature of the words that do occur, but also the relationships between the words that do occur and those that could have occurred. We discuss possible causes of the semantic similarity effect and point to possible limitations of using probability as a model of cognitive effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Mar
Externally publishedYes


  • Parsing
  • Prediction
  • Semantic similarity
  • Sentence processing
  • Spreading activation
  • Surprisal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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