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Semantic differential Example

Semantic differential

The semantic differential is a scale used for measuring the meaning of things and concepts. There are two aspects of meaning: denotative and connotative. The semantic differential measures connotative meaning.

  • Denotation - what a name or concept refers to (denote - to mark out plainly, to indicate)
  • connotation - the suggestive significance of a word, apart from its explicit and recognized meaning

Consider automobiles or school mascots. Names such as "Jaguar" or "Huskies" denote animals. Their connotation is power. In contrast, the "Oregon Ducks" project a different image or connotative meaning.

denotation = eagle, bird
connotation = strength, power

Creating the scale

The scale is set up using polar adjectives (opposite-meaning terms) at each end. After examining the connotative meaning of thousands of concepts, Charles Osgood and his associates identified three major dimensions of meaning: strength, value, and activity. The first two examples below fit the theme of strength. The second two represent value, and the last two illustrate activity.

Strong ____:____:____:____:____:____:____ Weak
Decisive Indecisive
Good ____:____:____:____:____:____:____ Bad
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