LLF – Bât. ODG – 5e étage – Salle du conseil (533)
Olivier Bonami (LLF/ Université de Paris), Louise McNally (Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona) and Denis Paperno (Universiteit Utrecht)
The semantics of word formation: probabilistic, paradigmatic, and scenario-based
Speakers constantly exploit morphology to coin new words with partially predictable meaning. Consider "decarceration", under the reading ‘policy to reduce the use of imprisonment’. The meaning is not predictable from component morphemes; it requires knowledge of sociohistorical facts and the morphologically related words used to describe them (e.g. "incarceration", "decriminalization").
Our aim in this talk is to outline and justify a new theory of meaning that embraces the pervasiveness of partial predictability in word formation. Our model exploits a paradigmatically structured lexicon where words stand in different types of relations, forming families (e.g., "decarceration", "incarceration", "carceral", etc.), series (e.g. "decarceration", "decriminalization", "decalcification", etc.) and morphosemantic alignments ("decarceration" is to "incarcerate" as "deglobalization" is to "globalize"). These probabilistically constrain the form and meaning of new words; family relations specifically narrow down meaning by evoking scenarios, knowledge about situations and their participants.