You are on page 1of 20

Lexical semantics

By D.A. Cruse
Chapter 4
Introducing lexical relations
Sense relations
Syntagmatic relations
Serve discourse cohesion, adding necessary informational
redundancy to the message, at the same time controlling the
semantic contribution of individual utterance elements through
disambiguation, for instance, or by signalling alternative e.g.
figurative strategies of interpretation
Paradigmatic relations
Reflect the way infinitely and continously varied experienced
reality is apprehended and controlled trhougt being categorised,
subcategorised and graded along specific dimensions of variation.
They represent systems of choices a speaker faces when encoding
his message.

Paradigmatic Lexical Relations



Propositional Synonymy
Definition: Synonyms are different lexemes which have the
same or similar meanings - Identity. E.g. friend, pal, mate
X is a propositional synonym of Y if:
X and Y are syntactical identical
S1 (X) = S2 (Y)
Example: He was drunk

He was intoxicated
Definition: The meaning of a word which must be said to be
includedd in that of another Inclusion.
X is a kind of Y : i.e. x is the hyponym of y, and y is
the superordinate of X
E.g. pop is a hyponym of music

Hip-hop pop punk
Hypernym (superordinate)
(Co-) hyponyms
A sentence containing a hyponym unilaterally entails a
parallel sentence which is identical in all respects
except that it contains a super- ordinate in place of the
hyponym. E.g. John listens to pop entails John listens to music
Reversed direction (i.e. from superordinate to
A negative, universial quantifier, form part of a conditional
clause or other expression of contingency. E.g. Its not music
entails Its not pop
Definition: The relationship that can be established between
words with partly overlapping meaning
E.g. dark and night
Defining characteristics:
No systematic entailment
Must have superordinate in common

Human Being
Husband Policeman
Kinds of Compatibility
Strict compatibility
Contigent compatibility

The relation between classes with no members in
X and Y are incompatibles if A is f(X) can be
found which entails a parallel sentence of the form
A is not f(Y): Its a cat entails Its not a dog
Contrary relationship:
I cycled to work = true, I walked to work true
I cycled to work = false, I walked to work = true or
Congruence Variants
Finger = congruent meronym of hand
Doctor = hypo-converse of patient
Patient= superconverse of doctor
Partial relations
Finish : can occur without overt DO, can
take gerund complement (I have finished
Complete: require an overt DO, cannot take
gerund complement( ? I have completed
Almost & practically => not always full
equivalence e.g. p. 97 12a
Lack of super-ordinate for knife, fork and
Quasi-superordinate would then be cutlery
Lack of super-ordinate for red, orange and
Quasi-superordinate would then be colour

angle & side
logical equivalence but state different things

Lexical relations defined in terms of expectation rather than necessity
dog & pet: expected relationship
but-test:Its a dog, but its a pet (expressive paradox)
Its a dog, but its not a pet (normal)
involves negative expectation
He is a student, but he is also a bank manager (normal)
He is a student, but he is not a bank manager (redundant more
than is necessary)

The Semantic Head
An element which interacts directly with an
element or elements outside the
e.g.: Extremely fast cars crash violently
Fast is the semantic head of extremely fast and
cars is the head of extremely fast cars.

Head-modifier constructions
A head-modifier construction is typically
endocentric, that is to say, the head alone
can play a grammatical role in the sentence
identical to that of the whole construction.
This construction is consequently reducible.
e.g.: We drank red wine We drank wine
Head-compliment constructions
A head-compliment construction is
typically not reducible syntactically to the
head alone.
e.g.: Arthur stroked the cat Arthur stroked

Selector and Selectee
It is generally possible to specify a selector in a construction in which
co-occurrence restrictions are operating. In a head-modifier
construction, the modifier is the selector, but in a head-complement
construction it is the head which the selector.
Selectors, generally, presuppose one or more
semantic traits.
e.g.: Pregnant in pregnant X
X, the head of the construction, bears the semantic trait
Selectees , in general, do not presuppose traits of
their selectors.

The second directional property involves the head
of a construction and any dependent item or items.
A dependent item is expected to bring to a
construction semantic traits not already prefigured
in the head; if not the combination is pleonastic.
Under such circumstances the head encapsulates
the meaning of the dependent item.
e.g.: the male uncle

Philonyms, tautonyms and

A set of syntagmatic relations can be based
on the results of putting grammatically
appropriate lexical units together in a
philonyms: if the combination is normal
tautonyms: if the combination is pleonastic we
talk of the head of the tautonym
xenonyms: if the combination results in

There are three degrees of dissonance:
Is diagnosed by the fact that it is cured by substituting a
prepositional synonym for one of the items involved in the
Paradox occurs when:
There is no possibility of resolving dissonance by synonymous
But there exits a superordinate of either xenonym which is
philonym of the other.
Characteristic of incongruity is that there is no superordinate of
either xenonym which can restore normality