Group differences in word use and meaning: A text analysis of the abstract word, ‘Values’
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People often use the same word while meaning very different things. Text analysis procedures can be applied to determine something of the meaning of words, typically from a single author. Rarely, however, have these procedures been used to explore the differences between individuals with different backgrounds and agendas, who nonetheless ostensibly claim to be talking about the same thing. In the current study, we explored the way in which an abstract word, 'values', was used by three interest groups in relation to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, in Australia. Documents about the Wet Tropics produced by three environmental organisations, involved in either research, management, or conservation activism, were compared for their use of the word 'values'. Using WordStat text processing software, distributional information in the localised sentence context (keyword frequencies by group and proximal co-occurrence) was explored for clues to differences in the applied meanings of 'values'. Type-token identities showed that vocabulary diversity was similar for all groups. Cluster analyses revealed group differences in word associations and conceptual themes surrounding 'values'. The research group tended towards operational terms, in contrast with the management group themes which related to links with Indigenous landowners and their cultural ties to the land, and conservation group themes which related to economics and community development. As examples of language 'slippage', keywords associated with 'values' showed that presence of the expression can predict connotations of economic worth (ECONOMIC, VALUE, RESOURCE), positive and negative attributions (QUALITY, POTENTIAL, THREAT), and physical substance (FOREST, SPECIES, HABITAT). Values are additionally associated with environmentally relevant behaviours (CONTROL, PROTECTION, MANAGEMENT). It is essential for effective communication and credible environmental science that such core terms and considerations as environmental 'values' convey clear and shared meanings.
Proceedings of JADT 2008 9th International Conference on the Statistical Analysis of Textual Data
Language, Communication and Culture not elsewhere classified