Word meaning Flashcards Preview

C82COG - Language > Word meaning > Flashcards

Flashcards in Word meaning Deck (54)
Loading flashcards...

What are the main questions we aim to answer about word meaning?

How it is represented and processed.


Where is information about words stored?

In the mental lexicon and semantic memory, which are distinct and linked in a two-way path.


What information is stored in the mental lexicon?

Information that enables us to recognise and produce words - orthography and phonology. Includes spelling, syntactic information (e.g. nouns, verbs) and pronunciation.


What information is stored in semantic memory?

Word meaning. Used for identification and labelling, includes information on facts, features (used for recognition) and functions.


What evidence is there that the mental lexicon and semantic memory are distinct?

Semantic dementia, in which people can recognise but not label words - no links with real world.


What challenges are there to semantic theory?

• Ambiguity - Bank vs. bank - look and sound the same but meanings differ, how is this represented?
• Synonymy - Chair vs. seat
• Set inclusion
• Antonymy - Long is the opposite of short, the plank is long, so the plank cannot be short.
• Partial knowledge (Putman, 1970, 1975) - ‘Beech’ and ‘larch’ denote different kinds of trees, we understand there's a difference even if we can't tell them apart.


What is a concept?

A mental representation of a category which determines how things are related or categorised. All words have an underlying concept but not all concepts are labelled by a word, for example there's no special word for brown dogs.


Define denotation.

The core, essential meaning of a word and the relation between the word and the class of objects to which it can refer.


Define connotation.

The secondary implications or emotional/evaluative associations of a word, e.g. connotations of dog: nice, frightening, smelly etc. Not used in defining meaning as they differ from person to person.


What is the classical approach to word meaning?

Referential theories, whereby the meaning of a word is the referent that it points to.


What challenges are there for referential theories of word meaning?

Abstract concepts e.g. justice, truth, as well as the representation of the meaning of the evening star vs. the morning star (both Venus).


What did Gottlob Frege (1892) state?

Reference (or extension) is only one aspect of a word's meaning. Sense (intension) is also important, the abstract specification that determines how a word is related in meaning to other words. It specifies the properties an object must have to be a member of the class.


What are the psychological approaches to word meaning?

Decompositional approaches, network theories, prototype theories, and connectionist approaches.


What theories use a decompositional approach?

Feature-list theories and feature verification processes.


How can network theories be divided?

Into hierarchical and associative networks.


Who came up with feature-list theories?

Katz & Fodor (1963); Smith, Shoben & Rips (1974).


Describe feature-list theories.

They 'decompose' meaning in terms of bivalent (Y/N) semantic features or semantic markers which capture the presence or absence of features.


What are the assumptions of decompositional approaches?

Primitives (features) are finite, universal (across languages), and innate.


What is Feature Comparison Theory (Smith, Shoben & Rips, 1974) an example of?

A feature-list theory, decompositional approach.


Describe Feature Comparison Theory (Smith, Shoben & Rips, 1974).

Presence/absence insufficient, need distinction between types of features as some are more useful than others - words have defining and characteristic features.


What do connectionist approaches typically emphasise?

Statistical patterns (co-occurrences).


What do McRae, de Sa & Seidenberg (1997) discriminate between?

Intercorrelated features, which tend to occur together and are shared across many members of the same category, and distinguishing (or distinctive) features which enable us to distinguish among things and are exclusive to single items within a category.


What did Cree, McNorgen & McRae (2006) state?

Distinguishing features hold a privileged status in semantic memory (they found that participants were faster to identify words from distinguishing features), making them easier to retrieve.


Give an example of a semantic network model.

Collins & Quillian (1969).


Describe Collins and Quillian's (1969) semantic network model.

Hierarchically organised, concepts represented by nodes in a network. Links represent relations between concepts (categories/attributes), and smaller categories are represented at lower levels. The meaning of a word is determined by the place of the node in the network as a whole, and the principle of cognitive economy applies.


What features are part of Collins and Quillian's (1969) semantic network model?

- Set membership (Fido is a dog)
- Set inclusion (dogs are animals)
- Part-whole (a seat is part of a chair)
- Property attribution (canaries are yellow)


What is the principle of cognitive economy?

The idea that information about concepts is stored at the highest appropriate level in the hierarchy.


What did Hollan (1975) do?

Showed that simple semantic network and feature theories are formally equivalent - they both define words in terms of features used to label it.


What did Rips, Smith & Shoben (1975) state about the similarities between semantic network and feature theories?

They may be formally equivalent, but this doesn’t imply that they're psychologically equivalent. Different processing assumptions may result in more or less satisfactory performance models.


What is a challenge for feature and semantic network theories?

They both define words in terms of necessary/sufficient conditions, but Wittgenstein (1953) pointed out that this isn't always possible, e.g. with the word 'game' - the concept of the game is held together by an overlapping set of similarities between games like the similarities between members of a family - it's difficult to find a single common feature, some examples may be more prototypical than others.