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Introduction to English Linguistics (Part 1)

Cornelius Puschmann, M.A. introling.ynada.com

Semantic features and roles


Session 11, Semantics

Contents of this session


What we're dealing with today: 1. Semantic roles 2. Semantic features 3. Metaphor

Semantic roles
Semantic roles parallel syntactic roles in that they explain the relation of constituents in an utterance.

Semantic roles
Semantic roles parallel syntactic roles in that they explain the relation of constituents in an utterance. However, semantic roles describe the relation of the constituents to their meaning, whereas syntactic roles describe their relation to each other.

Semantic roles
The man opened the door Subject Object

The key opened the door Subject Object

Semantic roles
The man opened the door Subject Object

The key opened the door Subject Object

Syntactically, the key and the man are equivalent - both are subjects.

Semantic roles
The man opened the door Subject Object

The key opened the door Subject Object

Syntactically, the key and the man are equivalent - both are subjects. But they obviously do different things. This is expressed via different semantic roles.

Semantic roles
The man opened the door Subject Object Agent Patient The key opened the door Subject Object Instrument Patient Syntactically, the key and the man are equivalent - both are subjects. But they obviously do different things. This is expressed via different semantic roles.

Agent and patient


The shark attacked the diver Subject Object Agent Patient

Agent and patient


The shark attacked the diver Subject Object Agent Patient The diver was attached by the shark Subject Adverbial Patient <----------> Agent

Agent and patient


The shark attacked the diver Subject Object Agent Patient The diver was attached by the shark Subject Adverbial Patient <----------> Agent Agent: a participant which the meaning of the verb specifies as doing or causing something, possibly intentionally . Patient: a participant which the verb characterizes as having something happen to it, and as being affected by what happens to it.

Agent and patient


Agent John kicked the ball Everyone is watching the game The disaster in the kitchen was caused by Mary Brooklyn is where Bob is moving next month

Agent and patient


Agent John kicked the ball Everyone is watching the game The disaster in the kitchen was caused by Mary Brooklyn is where Bob is moving next month Patient I'm eating a muffin The cat killed the mouse The girl was slapped by the boy The paintings have been damaged in the fire

Theme
She walked down the street They handed us the money The people aboard the Titanic drowned The package was returned to the sender

Theme
She walked down the street They handed us the money The people aboard the Titanic drowned The package was returned to the sender A theme is a participant characterized as changing its position or condition, or as being in a state or position.

Instrument
The key opened the door Freddy attacked the people with a chainsaw We got a corkscrew and opened the Chianti An excuse is all we need to leave early

Instrument
The key opened the door Freddy attacked the people with a chainsaw We got a corkscrew and opened the Chianti An excuse is all we need to leave early An instrument is the (physical) cause of an event that is used as a tool for implementation, usually by the agent.

Locative
He was hiding under the bed The paper is on the table Mike is at his parents' house

Locative
He was hiding under the bed The paper is on the table Mike is at his parents' house

A locative identifies the location or spatial orientation of a state or action.

Time
On Monday I have a doctor's appointment He is always late Don't wake me up before 10am The sun will cease to produce energy several millennia from now

Time
On Monday I have a doctor's appointment He is always late Don't wake me up before 10am The sun will cease to produce energy several millennia from now Just as locatives specifies physical location, time roles specify temporal location.

Semantic features
Semantic feature analysis allow us to decompose words into bundles of attributes.

Semantic features
Semantic feature analysis allow us to decompose words into bundles of attributes. "GRAPE"

-ANIMATE +FRUIT +EDIBLE

Semantic features
Semantic feature analysis allow us to decompose words into bundles of attributes. "GRAPE" "DOG"

-ANIMATE +FRUIT +EDIBLE

+ANIMATE +ANIMAL -HUMAN

Semantic features
Semantic feature analysis allow us to decompose words into bundles of attributes. "GRAPE" "DOG" "PRAIRIE DOG"

-ANIMATE +FRUIT +EDIBLE

+ANIMATE +ANIMAL -HUMAN

+ANIMAL +RODENT -DOG

Semantic features
"HAPPY" +EMOTION +POSITIVE "HAPPY" +EMOTION +POSITIVE "SAD" +EMOTION -POSITIVE "THRILLED" +EMOTION +POSITIVE +EXCITEMENT

Semantic features can be used to describe differences between antonyms, superordinates and their hyponyms, and near synonyms.

Semantic features and syntax


What's wrong here? ?The door kicked the man ?The ship died

Semantic features and syntax


What's wrong here? ?The door kicked the man ?The ship died Kick and die seem to demand +ANIMATE.

Semantic features and syntax


What's wrong here? ?The door kicked the man ?The ship died Kick and die seem to demand +ANIMATE. Note that this is not an issue of what happens in the world, but an issue of how we express what has happened linguistically - the man can bump into the door and the ship and can be destroyed or sunk.

Metaphor
Metaphor in linguistic terminology is a general cognitive process by which meaning is expanded and transfered.

Metaphor
Metaphor in linguistic terminology is a general cognitive process by which meaning is expanded and transfered. Today was a really long day Selma has been pretty down lately Monday was a slow day for business You owe me an apology

Metaphor
Metaphor in linguistic terminology is a general cognitive process by which meaning is expanded and transfered. Today was a really long day Selma has been pretty down lately Monday was a slow day for business You owe me an apology long = physical measurement -> temporal measurement down = physical location -> emotional state slow = physical speed -> lack of productivity owe = being financially indebted -> being socially/morally indebted

Assignment
Use what we have discussed in this session and the last one to analyze these sentences: She is falling apart Five beers later, the world looks very different The U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists Anything below a B is unacceptable Let's call it a night