Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

E-mail this page

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Dissertation Information

Title: The Semantics of Nominalizations: A study in decompositional semantics Add Dissertation
Author: Inderjeet Mani Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Georgetown University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1997
Linguistic Subfield(s): Computational Linguistics; Semantics;
Director(s): Catherine Ball
James Pustejovsky
Paul Portner

Abstract: I explore a decompositional approach to meaning which allows one to represent the meanings of words in terms of simpler components. Is there a theory we can construct as to what these components are and how they get assembled together? I address this question by examining problems of polysemy in the semantics of nominalizations. I use a Davidsonian semantic framework, along with abstract individuals corresponding to individual correlates of sets. Decompositions are broadly conceived as functions invoked by various inferential modules in mapping between a particular representation of meaning and more elaborated or underspecified representations. The ambiguity between eventive versus propositional readings of nominalizations is accounted for in terms of decompositions which shift the meanings of nominalizations. The ambiguity between process and result readings of nominalizations exploits a decomposition of event structure. I hypothesize that in certain contexts ambiguities may not be distinguishable (by the set of predicates relevant to the context) and in such contexts ambiguities can be collapsed, by means of a summation operation over the hierarchy of individuals, to yield underspecified representations. In general, this leads to a theory of meaning where different inferential modules invoke particular decompositional functions, where the level of granularity associated with a module determines what meanings and ambiguities are inferred. This study of decomposition leads to a comparative analysis of decompositional theories of semantics. Here decompositions are formalized for the first time as abstractions, with a characterization of the requirements for an abstraction to preserve compositionality of meaning. The decompositions are tied to particular generalizations about verb classes; they are defined in such a way that they do not obscure differences in meaning at the expense of capturing similarities in meaning.