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Semantics

Talk about these sentences


1.
2.
3.
4.

The boy ate the Big Mac.


The boy eat the Big Mac.
Ate the boy the Big Mac.
The Big Mac ate the boy.

Which sentences are correct?


In the incorrect sentences, are the problems

syntactic?
morphological?
semantic?
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Semantic features

The main problem: only animals can eat!


Describe word meaning with features / characteristics
Boy

[+human]
[+male]
[-adult]

Big Mac?
From last semester, how did we define banana?
Elephant?
Language?
Please choose three English or Chinese words

Describe them using semantic features with [+] and [-]

Semantic features

Now look at 101 and ex 1


It seems that we would need a large number of
features to describe every word
For pregnant, how many features would we need?

[+human], [+female], [+big], [+uncomfortable],


[+carrying_baby] (or [+pregnant]?!)

What about hot? [cold]?

Cold? [hot]? (The circularity problem)

Semantic roles (NOT RULES!)


(agent, theme etc)

Semantic features describe word meaning


Semantic roles describe the role words play in a
sentence

What are the semantic roles of NPs in this


sentence?

Check Yule 102ff

John looked at the stars with a telescope


How about John saw a bright star

ex 2
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Lexical relations

Semantic roles and semantic features explain


and define one word
Linguists are also interested in the relationships
between words
Two words may have

the same meaning (perhaps vs maybe)


opposite meanings (black vs white)
a broader meaning (dog vs animal)
a whole-part meaning (face vs nose)
Give examples of each
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Lexical relations: Synonyms

Usually not exactly the same meaning

huge large,

baby and infant


student and pupil

Or the meaning may be pretty similar, with the difference


in the way we use the words

sick and ill


quickly and speedily

appear emerge

Task: Can you think of any absolute synonym pairs?

Are they easier to find in English or Chinese, do you think?


Is there a reason why absolute synonyms should not exist (or should be very
rare)?

Synonymy across languages: crosslinguistic semantic equivalence

Although cat =

Consider again and . And

we know that there is no automatic one-to-one mapping between


English & Chinese (or any other pair)
at least, I hope we all know this
Many Romance languages distinguish between and

In French, aimer can mean either like or love!


The t/v distinction: vs
Please comment on other languages you know, regarding
these points

Antonyms (using * for semantic


oddness here)
Non-gradable

If you dont pass, you fail


If youre not dead, youre alive

But a table is not alive and not dead: can you explain this

?He looks very dead


*She is deader / more dead than him

Gradable

*If youre not rich, youre poor


He looks very rich.
She is richer than him.
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Hyponymy and meronymy

A bike is a kind of vehicle.


Bike is a hyponym of vehicle.
A car is a kind of vehicle.
Car and bike are co-hyponyms of vehicle.
A wheel is part of a vehicle.
Wheel is a meronym of vehicle.
Vehicle is a superordinate term in all 3 cases.
Task: draw 2 trees

A hyponym tree
A meronym tree
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Prototypes

If you close your eyes and think of this:

BIRD

You will probably see a robin, or a sparrow


Not a chicken, and not an ostrich, and not a
humming bird.
Could it be different, with you Chinese speakers, for
ostrich?
Write prototypes and non-prototypes for 2 categories

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Homonyms

Most homonyms are also homophones and homographs

Some homonyms are just homophones

Bank, bat, ,

right-write
-

Some homonyms are just homographs


Buffet (beat/ restaurant)
Resume (continue/ summary).
(but thats just a morpheme, can you think of a
word?)
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Polysemy and homonymy

Homonyms are totally different words

Polysemous words have a similar meaning


Which two are polysemous?

with a totally different meaning

He put the money in the bank.


He will bank the money.
We had a picnic on the bank of the river.

Now look at the date example, p 107.


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Markedness task: 1-7; 3 new; C


Unmarked form: normal or default

Marked form: unusual or noteworthy


1. Dog / bitch
2. Lioness / lion
3. Man / woman
4 . /
5. How are you? / Hows your father
6. Eat / ate
7. Happy / unhappy

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