The Distributional Hypothesis is that words that occur in the same contexts tend to have similar meanings (Harris, 1954). The underlying idea that "a word is characterized by the company it keeps" was popularized by Firth (1957), and it is implicit in Weaver's (1955) discussion of word sense disambiguation (originally written as a memorandum, in 1949). The Distributional Hypothesis is the basis for Statistical Semantics. Although the Distributional Hypothesis originated in Linguistics, it is now receiving attention in Cognitive Science (McDonald and Ramscar, 2001).
- Firth, J.R. (1957). A synopsis of linguistic theory 1930-1955. In Studies in Linguistic Analysis, pp. 1-32. Oxford: Philological Society. Reprinted in F.R. Palmer (ed.), Selected Papers of J.R. Firth 1952-1959, London: Longman (1968).
- Harris, Z. (1954). Distributional structure. Word, 10(23): 146-162.
- McDonald, S., and Ramscar, M. (2001). Testing the distributional hypothesis: The influence of context on judgements of semantic similarity. In Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pages 611-616.
- Weaver, W. (1955). Translation. In W.N. Locke and D.A. Booth (eds.), Machine Translation of Languages, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.