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Title:Semantic representations for spatial expressions
Author(s):Chung, Eugene
Director of Research:Lasersohn, Peter N.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lasersohn, Peter N.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Yoon, Hye Suk James; Arregui-Urbina, Karlos; Heidorn, P. Bryan
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Spatial Expressions
Semantic Representations
Spatial Prepositions
Generative Lexicon
Abstract:A spatial expression is defined as a natural language phrase which specifies a position, area or direction of objects, employing any of various parts of speech such as prepositions (on, in, …), nouns (front, rear,…), verbs (locate, stand, …), adjectives (close, distant, …), adverbs (back, next,…), or even pronouns (here, there). In English, expressions containing prepositional phrases representing spatial relations such as inclusion, contact, or contiguity are prime examples of spatial expressions. The meaning expressed by a spatial preposition indicates how its arguments physically relate to each other in space. Consider the following examples. a. We saw a boat on the lake. b. John has a cabin on the lake. The locations assigned by the spatial preposition on as in (a) and (b) are a surface and a side of the reference objects, respectively. The first example, (a), gives us an image that a boat is floating on the lake, but (b) causes us to imagine that a cabin is near the edge of the lake. The same prepositional phrase can be used to represent different locations in these examples. How can the same preposition represent different spatial configurations? Is it a case of ambiguity, or of generality of meaning? What kinds of relationships are expressed via a spatial preposition? What semantic features can we draw from the meanings of the spatial prepositions? How can we decide which semantic features are necessary to specify spatial arrangements? And what kinds of semantic features should we employ in order to disambiguate expressions containing spatial prepositions? My work is concerned with the semantic study of spatial expressions and their component spatial prepositions, especially (1) the problem of identifying what kinds of spatial relationships are represented via a spatial preposition, (2) the issue of distinguishing various spatial configurations represented by the same spatial preposition, and (3) the issue of interpreting spatial expressions containing spatial prepositions. My study also proposes a semantic model that distinguishes the various spatial relationships and configurations. The proposed semantic representation model is situated within the framework of Componential Analysis (Katz 1972; Bennett 1975; Wierzbicka 1996; and Jackendoff 1983, 1990) and the Generative Lexicon Theory (Pustejovsky 1991, 1995). To describe the meanings of spatial expressions containing prepositions and to study the spatial relationships between the Figure objects and the Ground objects, the semantic representation model I provide is based on the following: the concept and usage of features from Componential Analysis as well as the argument structure, the qualia structure and co-composition from the Generative Lexicon Theory. I expect that my proposed semantic representations can distinguish between the various meanings of the spatial prepositions. These representations enable us to disambiguate the spatial prepositions and their configurations by articulating the senses of prepositions on the bases of the various contexts in which the prepositions occur.
Issue Date:2011-05-25
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Eugene Chung
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-26
Date Deposited:2011-05

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