Several linguistics questions about the meaning in context of words:

How is called in linguistics the fact some words have a meaning only with other words?

How is it called when a word changes completely its meaning when another word is in the same sentence, and when it's just next to another word? And when it gains other meanings (that are not always in the dictionary)? And the meaning are the opposite?

A language, in general, has the ability to change words according to the context: Are all languages like this? How this property of the language is called?

Is this property a brake to the use of computer-made speech?

Is there name for all that concepts?

  • It's possibly not semantics that you ask of? – WiccanKarnak May 17 '17 at 12:33
  • I thinks semantics is broader. – Quidam May 17 '17 at 13:01
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    Yes, semantics and/or pragmatics, etc.; it’s hard to say without any examples given. – Jeremy Needle May 17 '17 at 13:05
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    Too many question in one, too vague and broad, and asking for opinions. There is much to be improved on this question ,,, – jk - Reinstate Monica May 17 '17 at 13:15
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    I will try to improve it, but I have no idea for now. If I open a question for each, I don't think it could be well received. So if people tries to reply what they can, it could be interesting. When the question are too precise, sometimes there is no answer. – Quidam May 17 '17 at 13:54

How is called in linguistics the fact some words have a meaning only with other words?

Words that have many context-dependent meanings are called polysemes. Although their meaning depends usually on much more than just other words in the sentence – it's often affected by intonation, broader context of the sentence, opinions of the speaker and much more. There is also a category of words called auto-antonyms, which have two opposite meanings that depend on the context. One such word is the verb „dust“, which can mean either „to remove dust“ (eg. dusting shelves) or „to add dust“ (eg. dusting a cake with sugar).

Is this property a brake to the use of computer-made speech?

It's usually not a big problem in the field of speech synthesis (converting text to speech) as the intonation could be most probably approximated by neural networks [1] [2]. It will however cause problems in the case of homographs that are pronounced differently, for example „read“ is pronounced /ɹiːd/ in present tense and /ɹɛd/ in past tense and past participle.

However it is a problem for natural language understanding (ie. making computers understand human language), as this dependency on context, together with metaphors and implied meanings, makes NLU an AI-hard problem. This means that it's generally believed that computers won't understand human speach until they are as inteligent as humans.

  • Thank you for your answer! For your first point, I'm looking for a concept more than "polysemy", but changing sometimes radically the meaning (e.g the opposite) or a word that has only a meaning with the context. Context-only meaning. I don't know if there are names for this. I will seach againt and edit my question to be more precise. – Quidam May 20 '17 at 13:49
  • Words that can get the opposite meaning are called "auto-antonyms" and they are already mentioned in my answer 🙂. I don't know about any context-only words, but I'll think about it and eventually edit my answer. – m93a May 22 '17 at 6:57
  • Well, I've got a somewhat disappointing answer for the context-only words: all pronouns are heavily context-dependent. However you were probably looking for nouns, verbs and adjectives, right? – m93a May 22 '17 at 7:13

If you're just looking for a broad term: context-dependency.

  • Welcome to Linguistics! Please expand your post, don't give just a single-line answer. A quality post requires explanation and some credible references. – bytebuster May 17 '17 at 18:44
  • I don't think it's a linguistics term. More a computational linguistics term? – Quidam May 20 '17 at 13:50

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