|Linguistics 110 Linguistic Analysis: Sentences & Dialects|
|Lecture Number Ten|
|The Structure of Meaning|
Meanings are not stacked one on the other; rather, the features of one word's definition become arguments of the predicate of the other.
writer : [WRITE(AGENTXY)] fromIn other words, a writer is an agent (object that acts) that writes. (The sub-X indicates that this meaning must be the first argument of some predicate and not the second. See why?)
write : [WRITE(XY)]
-er : [AGENTX]
Notice that the predicate argument structure explains both A+N and A+V constructions: John writes prolifically : John is a prolific writer. Everything looks fairly straghtforward. But wait, here's a problem.
Just remember that at the semantic level we are dealing solely with semantic categories and their relationship. A semantic feature (category) may be present in the definition of a word without any phonological or syntactic representation associated with it.
PARAPHRASE: a criminal person who practices law
PARAPHRASE: a person who practices law criminally
PARAPHRASE: a person who practices criminal law
How do we explain the ambiguity of old friend: "a (perhaps recent) friend who is old" versus "a (perhaps young) person who has been your friend for a long time"?
So, what we are saying when we say old friend is either "an old agent (person) involved in a friendship" or "an agent (person) involved in an old friendship"? Does that capture the ambiguity?