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Universal Dimensions of Meaning Derived from Semantic Relations among Words and Senses: Mereological Completeness vs. Ontological Generality (Open Access, Publisher's Version)

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Journal Article - Open Access

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George Mason University Fairfax United States

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A key to semantic analysis is a precise and practically useful definition of meaning that is general for all domains of knowledge. We previously introduced the notion of weak semantic map a metric space allocating concepts along their most general universal semantic characteristics while at the same time ignoring other, domain-specific aspects of their meanings. Here we address questions of the number, quality, and mutual independence of the weak semantic dimensions. Specifically, we employ semantic relationships not previously used for weak semantic mapping, such as holonymymeronymy is-partmember-of, and we compare maps constructed from word senses to those constructed from words. We show that the completeness dimension derived from the holonymmeronym relation is independent of, and practically orthogonal to, the abstractness dimension derived from the hypernym-hyponym is-a relation, while both dimensions are orthogonal to the maps derived from synonymy and antonymy. Interestingly, the choice of using relations among words vs. senses implies a non-trivial trade-off between rich and unambiguous information due to homonymy and polysemy. The practical utility of the new and prior dimensions is illustrated by the automated evaluation of different kinds of documents. Residual analysis of available linguistic resources, such as WordNet, suggests that the number of universal semantic dimensions representable in natural language may be finite. Their complete characterization, as well as the extension of results to non-linguistic materials, remains an open challenge.

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  • Linguistics

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