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The Language Hoax

By John H. McWhorter

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Language and Development in Africa

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Dissertation Information


Title: Can You Really Know a Word by the Company It Keeps? An Investigation into the Contextual Influence on Aspects of Polysemy Add Dissertation
Author: Nikola Dobric Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.uni-klu.ac.at/iaa/inhalt/2512.htm
Institution: Universitat Klagenfurt, Dr. Degree Program in American and English Studies
Completed in: 2012
Linguistic Subfield(s): Computational Linguistics; Semantics; Text/Corpus Linguistics; Lexicography;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Allan James
Veronica Zima-Smith

Abstract: One of the most pressing issues in lexical semantics is surely the lack of
solid empirical criteria in accounting for sense distinction. The fact that to
date the only viable mode of word sense disambiguation has been based
on the researcher’s own judgment implies that clearly defining the
boundaries of different interpretations of a polysemous lexeme and
expressing such a statement in empirical (linguistic) criteria is practically
impossible. The methodology explored within the thesis promises a fully
criteria-based account of word senses based on the use of representative
language corpora. The paper aims to test this claim, raised once again by
the recently re-emerging corpus-based decompositional approaches to
word sense disambiguation (WSD), prototypicality of senses, and sense
networks. Through the application of one of the most recent versions of
this methodology, namely Behavioral Profiling, to the polysemous verb
look, the paper will try to show how reliable the methodology is in its
promise of an objective and purely linguistic account for word senses.