The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 10/14 - András Kornai

WHO: András Kornai
WHAT: Lexical semantics by machines
WHEN: Friday 14 October, 1:00PM-2:30PM
WHERE: 32-D831


A simple information-theoretic argument shows that about 90% of the information in a sentence is carried by the choice of words, and only 10% depends on function-argument structure. In light of this, it is somewhat surprising that 90% of formal semantics (basically, all of Montague Grammar and its descendants) deals with the compositional aspects of meaning, with lexical semantics relegated to the fringes of formal work. In this talk we discuss how a classical piece of algebra, Eilenberg’s (1974) theory of machines, can be used to provide a nontrivial formal theory of word meaning, and how the resulting model interfaces with compositional tecto- and phenogrammar.

References: (* = suggested reading)

S. Eilenberg (1974) Automata, Languages, and Machines. Academic Press [This book is excellent background for those interested in the algebraic theory of finite state automata, transducers, and machines that this work puts to use for semantics.]

*A. Kornai (2010a) The treatment of ordinary quantification in English proper. Hungarian Review of Philosophy 2010 54/4 150-162 [This is a summary of what is wrong, in this author’s view, with MG and related theories of formal semantics. Formal issues are discussed, but no heavy machinery is used.]

*A. Kornai (2010b) The algebra of lexical semantics. In C. Ebert, G. Jaeger, J. Michaelis (eds) Proc. 11th Mathematics of Language workshop (MOL11) Springer LNCS 6149 174-199 [This is the intro to the new approach.]

*A. Kornai (2011) Eliminating ditransitives. To appear in M. Egg, P. de Groote, M-J Nederhof, F. Richter (eds) Selected Papers from the 15th and 16th Formal Grammar Conferences, Springer LNAI, in press. [One area where the algebraic approach shows some promise.]