Questions tagged [semantics]

Semantics is the study of meaning, used to understand expressions through language.

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Do predicates always map to truth values in formal semantics?

I have been informed here What is the difference between function and predicate? that in formal semantics, predicates are always functions that map from individuals (i.e. arguments) to truth values. ...
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3 answers
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Is polysemy inevitable in all language including mathematics, and why?

Several languages (including Mathematics) use polysemy. My question is why? Specially in mathematics, where precision is important, polysemy seems to be undesirable but it seems it is inevitable in ...
2 votes
1 answer
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Is binding semantic?

Does binding theory occur in syntax or semantics? Personally, I think the index of the pronouns is semantic because who it refers to is interpreted in the meaning, which should be regarded as ...
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What is the difference between function and predicate?

I am currently watching videos on formal semantics in Youtube. I find that the terms function and predicate are used a lot and that what they mean is similar. Functions take one or more arguments, and ...
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How do you write "in" in logical form?

"There is a beer in the fridge." There exists a beer and there exists a fridge such that the beer is in the fridge. \exists x [BEER(x)] \exists y [FRIDGE(y)] IN(x,y) I guess I never ...
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Is there a controlled language that controls discourse?

Attempto Controlled English can be used to require people to use a particular kind of English, for standardization. Is there any controlled language that controls not only the grammar and vocabulary ...
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Are there four potential readings in the examples?

I read that Fiengo & May (1994: 115-117) points out that through the analysis of strict and sloppy readings in elliptical environments, it has shed light not only on more general notions of ...
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3 votes
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why is this ambiguous sentence disambiguated in its wh-question form?

The sentence 'I saw the man in the room' is ambiguous (either I was in the room and saw a man, or the man was in the room and I saw him) If we transform it into a wh-question, 'In which room did you ...
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1 answer
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Meaning in Original vs. Summarized Texts

I've been wondering for a while now if it is possible to compare two texts - an original text and a summarized/simplified version of it in terms of meaning? Specifically, whether or not meaning is ...
2 votes
3 answers
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Is there any constructed language that builds concepts from primitives?

I know about semantic primitives but I was curious about a usable system where you actually construct words out of those primes. The idea is to have a keyboard of the primes and to build concepts by ...
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27 votes
9 answers
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Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

In theory, the words "eat" and "drink" are fundamentally the same action to me: putting something (...edible?) in your mouth. Oftentimes when speaking English, I confuse the words &...
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What is a modern framework for a “complete” description of a concept’s content?

I am wondering if there is a theory/field/framework in linguistics today which attempts to explicitly describe completely the intrinsic content of a “concept”. Of course, concepts reside in the mind-...
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What languages use a conceptual parallel to the Hebrew verb ירש?

The Hebrew verb ירש is loosely translated to mean "inherit," but does not quite mean the same thing as the English word inherit because the Hebrew verb refers to an heir inheriting his ...
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1 answer
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Types of transliteration and/or translation

There are cases where abbreviations or proper names like brands get transliterated/translated differently. This question is asking whether there are linguistic names for these phenomena, e.g. The ...
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What is the difference between an implicature and a presupposition

I have been reading on pragmatics from Levinson, Yule, Cadzar etc. English is not my native language, though i can understand basic concepts such as maxims, implicatures and its types(generalized, ...
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Is telicity a property of verbs or predicates?

In English, the verb "walk" is atelic. One could in principle walk indefinitely. Fatigue and aging limit the activity, but that fact is not an inherent part of the meaning of the verb. ...
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What is the term for a phrase that connects two objects with some relation?

In mathematics, we usually see symbols that join two objects: numbers, sets, etc. The more familiar one is the equality symbol "=" which in a formal standpoint means "is logically ...
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Do sentences that mutually entail each other have similar predicate-argument structures?

An active sentence entails its passive counterpart, and vice versa. Thus, the two sentences John likes Joan and Joan is liked by John mutually entail each other. My question in this regard concerns ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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What's the opposite of semantic parsing?

Semantic parsing is the task of translating natural language into a formal meaning representation on which a machine can act. What's the opposite called? I.e. "translating a logical formalism ...
6 votes
2 answers
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'Long stories are easy to tell to the children' and 'The children are easy to tell long stories to' - entailment?

What is the entailment pattern across the next two sentences: Long stories are easy to tell to the children and The children are easy to tell long stories to? I am studying entailment patterns and I ...
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Semantic class of a word?

I read about the term semantic class and I can't quite figure it out. Can anyone please explain to me with examples when 2 words are in the same semantic class? Can a plural word can be in the same ...
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Giving a technical description of Greek Circumstantial / Adverbial Participles

I am looking for a good way to articulate a technical description of the function of Greek circumstantial participles (alternately called adverbial participles). This is my first-pass attempt at doing ...
2 votes
2 answers
391 views

Formalizing Natural Languages

I've been interested in the subject of metalanguages [in mathematical logic] and how (if) we can formalize them. Most metalanguages I've encountered use some variation of a natural language (such as ...
1 vote
3 answers
132 views

Can we claim that all words derived from the same root must necessarily be related in the meaning?

In many languages that I know morphology plays a role in creating words. And, as much as I know, in morphology we have a root, which is the most important part. Now, in seimitic languages (like Arabic,...
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Who says that words historically evolve from concrete meanings to more abstract meanings?

Conventional wisdom says that when a word has two meanings -- one concrete/tangible and one abstract -- the concrete meanings is the older one, and the more abstract one is the newer meaning that ...
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How meaning of words get richer by adding adjectives?

I'm looking for resources to study how meaning of words get richer by adding adjectives. I don't know the terms, so I don't know where to look. I want to use them in computational linguistics.
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How to recognize Heads [closed]

I'm reading "Introduction to English linguistics" and in the chapter 4, there is a paragraph that I don't understand : The other crucial cluster of properties of heads concern their ...
6 votes
3 answers
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What do "titles" and "Beijing" stand for?

I am looking at metonyms and I have two examples I am interested in, but I am not sure what they stand for. The bookshop holds over 1 million titles. Since Beijing, the Olympics have got even more ...
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Why is 'before' a Downward Entailing Operator, but 'after' is not?

I'm a teaching assistant for a linguistics class and I'm having a hard time finding a clear and concise way to explain the difference between "before" and "after" re: entailment. ...
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1 answer
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Semantic role of subjects of predicatives

Consider the below sentences, all of which contain a subject, a verb, and a predicative. The door felt cold. He is smart. She's got taller. What is the semantic role of the subjects in these ...
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Do active predicates and their passive equivalents have different numbers of arguments?

What are some examples of active predicates in English that have different arguments when rewritten in their passive form? I guess an active predicate is "He eats the rice" and the passive ...
1 vote
1 answer
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Are there different "kinds" of meaningless sentences?

There is famous sentences by Chomsky ("Colorless green ideas sleep furiously") to show that syntactically sentences can by devoid of meaning, or at least have a very odd or dubious meaning. ...
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1 answer
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Series of textbooks to learn semantics from beginners' to advanced level

I am not a student of linguistics, but my interest in mathematics, philosophy and computer science inevitably leads me to many terms and concepts used in linguistics, particularly semantics. I have ...
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1 answer
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Is meaning prescribed?

The way I see it, there's two aspects to the choice between the descriptivistic and prescriptivist approach. There's the ought aspect; how ought we view the meaning of words? Then there's the is ...
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How can we know if two names which have the same referent have the same meaning or different meanings?

“A cute cat” and “a black cat” can have the same referent but have explicitly different meanings. Then, how can we know if two proper nouns, especially names, which have the same referent have the ...
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Controlling for semantic shift/change in a dataset

I'm working on a project to ascertain a cohort's feelings (using a Likert scale) on different words relevant to that cohort. Individuals of the cohort are different ages, and the goal is to see if the ...
3 votes
0 answers
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Question on the semantic role of the objects of verbs indicating prevention

It goes without saying that the title of this question is perhaps rather prolix, so allow me to illustrate what I mean. Consider the below sentence. The man's heroic actions prevented the innocent ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What are the possible theta roles for to-infinitives in these sentences?

For example, in the sentence I want to sleep. The verb want takes two arguments, which get two theta roles, I gets the agent role, what theta role does to sleep get? Here is another example: I want ...
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1 answer
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What is “sense”? [closed]

Why is that morning star and evening star have different senses? What is the sense of morning star and what is the sense of evening star? I understand they refer to the same object, so they have the ...
1 vote
1 answer
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How can you computationally apply a grammar rule to a sentence?

I would like to use a rigorous and comprehensive theory of the grammar of English to formulate some grammar rule and then computationally/programmatically check whether a sentence abides by it (not as ...
0 votes
1 answer
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Materialization of nouns by adjectives

I am not even an amateur in linguistics, especially semantics. I want to use this idea in computational linguistics that I am also new there. The idea is how to deal with nouns that become more ...
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Is there a definitive modern theory of semantics?

It seems like although there may be gaps in theories of phonology and syntax we have a pretty good understanding of the nature of the system. Syntax is some kind of computational system based on tree-...
5 votes
2 answers
134 views

How to define sentence complexity?

I am not a pure linguist but rather at the intersection of computational linguistics, NLP and computer science. Thus please be cautious with me and my ignorance. I am looking for definitions of ...
2 votes
0 answers
109 views

What counts as a factive verb in terms of presupposition triggers?

Though words like knew or realised are commonly know factive verbs that trigger presupposition. Does verbs like enjoyed, paid, looking forward, commended and delighted also count as factive verbs ...
1 vote
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How can the polysemy of the Polish instrumental case be explained?

If the instrumental case in Polish is used to designate the tool with which an action, or state of being, is being performed/is, how is it that the instrumental is also used to express time and ...
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To what extent do the number and respective functions of performative constructions vary across languages?

For those who came in late, a performative predicate is one that denotes an act made possible by the use of the verb or predicate itself. For example: When a clergyperson or justice of the peace ...
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Perfect and Preterite

How can one communicate subtle differences in meaning that in other languages would be signaled only by the distinction of Preterite/Perfect when in fact in the language spoken there is no distinction ...
2 votes
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Database of Words and their Semantic Entropies?

I'm reading up on semantic entropies and it seems as though there aren't any actual databases of words and their associated semantic entropies for any given methodology. For instance, this study has a ...
1 vote
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what's the denotation of the predicate 'exists'?

What denotation do linguists assign to the predicate exists in order to make the right predictions about the truth conditions of sentences like Santa does not exist. Unicorns do not exist. My ...
3 votes
2 answers
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How to quantify the semantic depth of a sentence?

I'm looking for a robust way to roughly quantify the amount of information conveyed in a sentence, specifically in English. For instance "He went to the place" conveys less information than &...

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