Ling 554
Seminar in Semantic Theory:
Advanced Lexical Semantics
Rice University
Suzanne Kemmer

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The following are intended as relatively short exercises in semantic description, designed to give practice in expressing the complex theoretical concepts we are using. Precision of expression will develop gradually with practice.

Assignment 1.

Due Tuesday, January 23 before class. Student Assignments

Based on the constructed examples we came up with in the first class meeting, we saw that the verb open as used in the transitive construction has two closely related senses, which can usefully be described in terms of a difference in profiling.

Describe the shared semantics of the two senses briefly, and then explain the difference between the senses, using the concept of profiling. Try to do this in no more than a few paragraphs. (For those with less background: the concepts of base and profile are explained in many of Langacker's works, for example Foundations of Cognitive Grammar Vol. I.)

You can use any diagrams, image schemas, or other representational tools you find helpful. But the explanation in prose should give all the relevant semantic information, with the other representations playing a subsidiary role, and referred to in the prose. B

Assignment 2.

Due Thursday, Feb. 1 before class. (Bring assignment to class.) Student Assignments

In class on Tuesday 1/30, we observed corpus examples of the use of shallow in the attributive adjective construction. (The complete set of examples is below.) The nouns that are modified by shallow include some that designate containers, such as pool and teacup. This makes sense, intuitively, if the notion of a container is evoked by shallow (i.e. is part of the semantics of the term).

However, the head nouns also include things like breath(s), end, frying, and water. (You can ignore missions.)

Explain how these head nouns are semantically compatible with shallow, given its meaning, even though they do not actually designate containers. The concept of profiling will be helpful. You can use any other cognitive semantic concepts that help you describe or explain.

I assume this explanation can be done in a couple of paragraphs. You can use any diagrams you want to help explain, but not as a subsitute for explanation.


Exhaustive set of examples from subcorpus of SPOKEN English (10 million words in subcorpus) from the BNC.

...I don't feel any deep breaths or shallow breaths...
...the way I suppose in the shallow end and Andrew he didn't want her ...
... diving board, er, and a deep end and a, and a shallow end for kids.
... no the shallow end, any way I'm gonna clear off now...
... Deep frying is a lot actually is a lot better than shallow frying ...
... missions as, Hanover, Berlin and then there were those shallow missions to North Africa and, and of Russia. ...
... . What will happen there, if you've got a shallow pool and a couple of deep pools and the sun is shining ...
... for six months, winter months, erm and erm managed a shallow pool which erm wasn't what I had envisaged at all, but ...
... the, the socket bit is very shallow, like a shallow tea cup and the hip, the leg bone doesn't stay in ...
... will be influenced by things like the tide, obstacles like shallow water or other boats and by wind shifts and wind shadows
... sideways more with the daggerboard up but as you come into shallow water then you can raise the rudder and step ashore.
... They could, in fact, be located offshore in shallow water, and lying on the beach watching these large structures ...
... those rocks. Then as before, step out to the shallow water, lift out the daggerboard, raise the rudder completely ...

Assignments 3 and 4.

Cut is due Tuesday, March 20 before class. Break is due Tuesday March 27 before class. Bring each assignment to class on the specified day and email them to me as well on that day.

The verbs cut and break are force dynamic verbs that prototypically, in the spatial domain, designate actions of disrupting the physical integrity of an object.

A corpus in which examples of the verbs can be searched and sorted allows us to see some of the primary compatibility patterns found with the verbs, e.g. with objects, instruments, locational paths, and other types of frequently collocating elements. These patterns can be used to analyze the semantics of the verbs, based on the assumptions regarding semantic compatibility we talked about.

Using data from a corpus of English (not a Google search), describe what you see as some primary senses of each verb, contrasting the senses of a given verb in terms of conceptual content, profiling, image schemas, domains, or whatever other contrasting properties you see. Keep different constructions of the verbs separate in your analysis, e.g. transitive, intransitive, specific verb-particle (sub)constructions, or other verbal constructions, although you can relate your constructional types when analyzed. Noun uses are a separate construction and you do not need to analyze the nouns; but you can relate any notable things you see in them to the verbal analysis if you wish.

Be sure to search all the various finite forms of the verbs. (Wildcards and/or regular expressions allow searching multiple forms in one search, but if you can't do that, search the forms separately and put the examples together in a file.) The past participle form broken is relevant, but can be skipped for this exercise.

You can limit yourself to looking at about 100-150 hits of each verb, more if you find too many examples of exactly the same type. Use the most frequent types of uses in your analysis. The analysis does not have to be complete or exhaustive. Aim for 3-5 pages for each verb.

Assignment 5

© 2007 Suzanne Kemmer
Last modified 14 March 2007