Questions tagged [semantics]

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

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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 ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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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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 ...
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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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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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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 ...
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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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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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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 ...
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What is the semantic type of the expression NOT in "Tina but not John"?

What is the semantic type of the expression not in the structure below? I understand that proper nouns have their generalized qualifier types, but I am unsure how to derive the semantic type from the ...
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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 ...
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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-...
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5 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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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2 votes
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On modality and semantic roles

Do modal verbs (can, may, must, etc.) in any way affect the semantic roles of the arguments of the verbs that they govern? For example, consider the simple sentence: He plays basketball. Here, if I ...
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What is the difference between neurolinguistics and similar fields of study?

What is the difference between neurolinguistics and cognitive linguistics or psycholinguistics? I am already having trouble understanding the difference between cognitive linguistics and ...
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2 votes
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On semantic roles

What is the semantic role of the direct object in the below sentence? If I'm not mistaken, the answer is 'patient' (since 'He' is doing something [in this case, 'crossing'] to the river). However, I ...
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A question regarding semantics of "only"

I have a question regarding semantics of only provided by Beaver & Clark (2009) and Chierchia (2013). for something like "Sandy only met [Bush]F" (let this proposition be called p). ...
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Troponym vs hyponym vs hypernym

I came across following table in Jurafsky's book: Note that it calls noun subordinate as "hyponym" and verb subordinate as "troponym". But it names both noun superordinate and ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Does a sentence with an adjunct entail the same sentence without the adjunct?

Entailment is a situation in which the truth of a given sentence necessitates the truth of some related sentence. If the sentence Susan is taller than Jane is true, then we know for sure that the ...
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Why is “I pray” a response to “thank you” in many languages?

I noticed that “I pray” is used as a response to “thank you” in many languages. For example, Turkish Teşekkür ederim. (“I thank.”) Rica ederim. (“I pray (or make a request).”) Italian Ti ringrazio....
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Does simple type theory distinguish between those common nouns that are used as arguments and those that are used as predicates?

Kearns (2011: 58-61) views the common noun dog to be of type <e, t>. This makes sense based upon the predicate use of such a noun, e.g. Those animals are dogs. What happens, though, when the ...
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5 votes
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Is there a linguistic term for “grammatically well-formed word salad”?

The accepted answer to this question quoted Chomsky's (1955) famous “sentence” Colorless green ideas sleep furiously and an earlier example from Tesnière (1940s), which translates to English as The ...
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4 answers
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Is the way words are used the biggest obstacle in understanding science and technology? [closed]

Do I have a point to say that, in the area of science, people have difficulties understanding it mostly due to the way words are used to describe whatever it may be? One may understand the words ...
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Are there generative theories of grammar with privative features outside of phonology?

By "generative grammar", I take the widest interpretation and do not mean "Chomsky's theory of syntax today", thus HPSG and LFG would be instances of GG(broad). Phonology has a ...
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Is there an approach to quantification theory that construes quantifiers as subset creators?

In formal semantics, the theory of generalized quantifiers analyzes quantifiers (e.g. all, some, no, most, few, etc.) in terms of sets to sets. The meaning of the quantifier some, for instance, is ...
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4 votes
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What's a good second formal semantics book?

I'm almost done reading Heim and Kratzer's Semantics in Generative Grammar and I'm looking for a good "second" book on formal semantics. Ideally, I would like it to emphasize the syntax-...
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3 votes
2 answers
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Are different inflectional forms of a word different words or the same word?

At some point, I gained the notion that inflections of a word didn't constitute different words, but rather different forms of the same word. This Wikipedia article however, says the process of ...
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How to differentiate between consonants and vowels on praat? [closed]

I am student of MA and i need your help to know about the praat software. i am stuck in my research in last section. If any one hear to know so i thoroughly and rigorously sorry to say and please help ...
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2 votes
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Does every semantic ambiguity produce an equivalent syntactic ambiguity?

I was reading this question Syntactic and semantic ambiguity, and there is a comment from @jlawler on how the sentence "He's mad" have different syntactic affordances: Original comment: &...
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What are some good books on word formation and semantics? [closed]

I have been trying to find an accessible book for the general reader that focuses particularly on questions like: How words are created? (morphology, etymology, popular PIE roots etc.) How words ...
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2 votes
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Metaphors meaning “understand”

All major branches of the IE family use variants of a metaphor that equates understand with grasp, but they use various roots, all of which have PIE pedigrees: Sanskrit has gŗbhnate < GhŖBh with ...
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1 vote
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What is the thematic role of the subjects of the sentences "The bomb exploded" and "The sun shone"?

In the sentence, "Sally jumped," "Sally" stands for the entity that causes or controls the jumping--in other words, an agent or agent-like argument. In the sentence, "The ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Are there natural language paradigms like they are in programming languages?

There exist multiple programming language paradigms. Like Imperative programming, Functional programming, Object-Oriented programming, etc. Each with a different 'focus' or 'worldview'. Do such ...
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