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Semantics Continued…. Meaning Relationships Entailments Maxims of Conversation. Semantic relationships. The semantic relationships we will discuss here are: Hyponyms – X is a subset of Y Synonyms – X is similar to Y Antonyms – X is opposite of Y Homonyms – X sounds/spelled like Y

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Semantics Continued…

Meaning Relationships


Maxims of Conversation

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Semantic relationships

  • The semantic relationships we will discuss here are:

    • Hyponyms – X is a subset of Y

    • Synonyms – X is similar to Y

    • Antonyms – X is opposite of Y

    • Homonyms – X sounds/spelled like Y

    • Entailment – X is entailed by Y (If X, then Y)

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  • X is a hyponym of Y if X is a subsetof Y.

  • For example, consider the two words “bird” and “parakeet”.

    • Tweety and Polly are parakeets.

    • The current set of parakeets contains these two members.

    • The current set of bird contains at least these two members, possibly others.

    • Parakeet is a subset of bird, so parakeet is a hyponym of bird.

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  • Hyponymy can be seen as the loss of specificity.

  • It involves moving from more specific to more general.

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  • Two words are synonymous if they share the same meaning.

    • Rarely are word meanings 100% identical

    • Used in different contexts, have different connotations [sofa vs. couch]

  • While it is difficult to find two exactly identical words, there are examples of synonyms in our everyday language:

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  • There is no dog that is not a canine.

  • Every couch is also a sofa.

  • If you cease, you also stop

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  • In its barest form, antonymy refers to the condition of being opposites.

    • Complementary/contradictory

      • Complete/incomplete, married/single

      • Must be one or the other

    • Relational opposites/contraries

      • Over/under, doctor/patient, stop/go

      • Can be neither, represent symmetrical relationships

    • Scalar antonyms/gradable pairs

      • Hot/cold, big/small, tall/short

      • Can be neither, represent extremes on a scale

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  • Complementary/contradictory pairs

    • Given X and Y, every entity in the world is either in X’s set or in Y’s set, but never in both.

      • married/unmarried

      • visible/invisible

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  • Relational opposites / Contraries

    • Given X and Y, everything in the world is in X’s set, in Y’s set, or in neither set, but never in both sets.

      • over/under

        • An object can be over or under another, but never both. It could also be NEXT TO another object.

      • married/bachelor

        • A man can be married or a bachelor, but not both. He could also be a divorcé or a widower.

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  • Scalar antonyms/Gradable pairs

    • Given X and Y, X and Y fulfill the conditions for being relational opposites but in addition can be interpreted as endpoints on some scale.

      • good/bad

      • hot/cold

      • strong/weak

        • A good test for this kind of relationship is the potential use of the modifier “quite”.

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  • Source of much lexical ambiguity

  • Different words with the same form but with different meanings.

    • Homonym – [sounds & spelled the same]

      • pen/pen, pool/pool

    • Homophone [sounds the same]

      • tale/tail, knight/night, pen/pen, tier/tear

    • Homograph [spelled the same]

      • tear []/tear [], pen/pen, lead [lId]/lead [lEd]

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  • If A, then B (but not necessarily vice versa)

  • 1. If something is an A, it must also be a B, too.

  • 2. If something is not a B, then it cannot be an A.

A = mare

B = horse

C = animal






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Semantic Entailments

  • Inferences

    • The sheriff killed Jesse.

    • Entails: Jesse is dead.

  • Semantic decomposition:

    • kill = cause someone to die

    • die = to become dead

    • *The sheriff killed Jesse, but Jesse is still alive.

    • Alive = not dead

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  • “Want to see a movie tonight?”

    • “I have to study.”

  • “What do you want for your birthday?

    • “Well, my camera is broken…”

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Maxims of Conversation

  • Quantity

    • Don’t say more or less than is required

  • Relevance

    • Be relevant

  • Manner

    • Avoid ambiguity, be brief and orderly

  • Quality

    • Be truthful