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I have parsed the following sentence in the Stanford CoreNLP demo page and the Stanford parser demo page. Although both result in a parse that can imply purpose semantics (hinging on the advcl and the sbar accordingly), clearly the parsers don't capture "in order to" as an expression whose meaning much transcends the relationships between its own word constituents (as in an idiom).

he went to the shop in order to buy food

What kind of parsing, or pre-processing stage, may yield "in order to" as a single unit of meaning, thus making it amenable to semantics derivation same as a preposition affords? e.g. "for" may commonly imply purpose semantics, and having "for" parse as a preposition assists in deriving purpose semantics.

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    That would be taken care of in speech by the intonation and rhythm, plus the fact that it's a fixed phrase, of which there should be a list eventually. Maybe a depth-first identification of collocations to compare with a stop list, or something more subtle. But fixed phrases are a substantial portion of both written and spoken language, and they're arbitrary, so they gotta be identified somehow. In analysis (not CL/NLP analysis), I usually just treat fixed phrases as words that contain spaces, and occasionally variables.
    – jlawler
    Oct 15 '14 at 22:51
  • I don't think this one is arbitraty, I could guess originally "in order" added some meaning preceding "to", and along time, "in order to" became just as semantically shallow as "to". But your comment mirrors my question quite well. Let's see what the crowd wizdom says.
    – Matan
    Oct 15 '14 at 22:54
  • Most of the semantics has been bleached out of fixed phrases, unless you're planning to build a metaphor analyzer, which is a rather larger undertaking.
    – jlawler
    Oct 15 '14 at 23:03
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    Of course they have. But I'm hoping for actionable answers more than this interesting discussion about fixed phrases.... unless.. you can point out a good database/list/corpus of proper English (not slang) fixed phrases..
    – Matan
    Oct 15 '14 at 23:06

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