December 25, 2020

The Edinburgh Associative Thesaurus in Clojurescript

The Edinburgh Associative Thesaurus is a set of word associations; if you hear the word library what word would first come to mind? This is what researchers who published with Edinburgh University Press sought to find.

The surveys took place among college students in the UK in the early 1970s, so the results will be understandably affected by biases of time, place, and demographics. Even so, I've found the Edinburgh Associative Thesaurus to be a useful tool, particularly for word games like Password and Pyramid, and particularly since such empirical data sets are difficult to come by. However, to my dismay, it appears that the main page hosting a web form for querying the Thesaurus is offline. (There are still copies of the Thesaurus data online.)

I've taken the effort to remedy this somewhat by making my own form using data from the Thesaurus. Type in a word or string in the input field below and click the "Find word assocations" button.

Please note:

  1. You don't need to worry about typing in upper or lower case. Searches are case-insensitive.
  2. There's no stemming -- searches are exact, so the results of "read" versus "reading" will differ.
  3. Results are sorted in descending order by the number of "hits" (responses in the original survey).
  4. Results are solely in the direction stimlulus-to-response. You're typing in a stimulus term and seeing what responses, if any, are in the Thesaurus.
  5. Results, if any, appear below the form.

The source code is available online here and is based on the source for my Subanagram generator in Clojurescript. Thanks to Darius Kazemi for providing a JSON version of the Thesaurus, which I used in this app.