Rich Lexical Represe ntations and Conflicting Features

In: International Review of Pragmatics

This paper argues that interpretations are fine-grained and that, to come to a full understanding of meaning, it is important to find out more about how such detailed interpretations are derived. As a first step towards answering this question it is insightful to look at the interpretation of metaphors. Psycholinguistic experiments have shown that the interpretation of metaphors involves the suppression of irrelevant or incompatible features. These studies could be taken as an indication against the common view that word meanings are underspecified and enriched in a context. In contrast with this underspecification view, this paper suggests a view of the lexicon in which words come with very rich semantic representations. When two representations are combined, a conflict may arise when elements of the representations are incompatible. This paper argues that such a conflict is best analyzed in Optimality Theory. The optimization process of combining rich lexical representations is illustrated with an analysis of the adjective-noun combination stone lion.

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