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Creating Similarity: Lateral Thinking for Vertical Similarity Judgments

Tony Veale and Guofu Li

The 51st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2013)
Sofia, Bulgaria, August 4-9, 2013


Just as observing is more than just seeing, comparing is far more than mere matching. It takes understanding, and even inventiveness, to discern a useful basis for judging two ideas as similar in a particular context, especially when our perspective is shaped by an act of linguistic creativity such as metaphor, simile or analogy. Structured resources such as WordNet offer a convenient hierarchical means for converging on a common ground for comparison, but offer little support for the divergent thinking that is needed to creatively view one concept as another. We describe such a means here, by showing how the web can be used to harvest many divergent views for many familiar ideas. These lateral views complement the narrow vertical view offered by WordNet, and support a system for creative idea exploration called Thesaurus Rex. We also show how Thesaurus Rex is used to support a novel, generative similarity metric for WordNet.

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