File 6.5 Semantics

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1. Identify each of the following statements as being either mostly about

lexical semantics or mostly about compositional semantics:

a. The phrase purple books describes a group of objects (books) that have a

certain property (being purple).

b. The words couch and sofa mean roughly the same thing.

c. Water under the bridge means something different from bridge under the


d. The sentence John ate a bagel for breakfast is true just in case an

individual by the name of John consumed a round bread product with

a hole in the middle for his morning meal.

e. The opposite of open is shut.

f. Paris is a word that refers to a particular city in France.

g. If the sentence Harold likes checkers and backgammon is true, then the

sentence Harold likes backgammon must be true as well.

h. Bird means something like ‘warm-blooded, egg-laying animal with

feathers, wings, two legs, and a beak.’

i. When most people hear the word bird out of the blue, they are more

likely to think of a songbird than a penguin, flamingo, duck, or

vulture; however, penguins, flamingos, ducks, and vultures are also

kinds of birds.

j. Jelly beans that are lemon flavored has the same meaning as lemon flavored jelly beans.  

3. We discussed the fact that a single referent can sometimes be picked out by

distinct expressions with distinct senses, e.g., Barack Obama and the 44th

president of the United States.

i. Come up with your own pair of expressions where each expression

has a different sense, but where both have the same referent. Say

what this referent is. Make up three such pairs of expressions.

ii. Explain in your own words why examples like the ones you came up

with for part (i) require that we distinguish between sense and

reference as two different components of linguistic meaning.  

8. In what way is each of the following pairs of words related? In cases of

hyponymy, indicate which word is the hyponym and which word is the

hypernym; in cases of antonymy, tell what kind of antonymy it is.

a. shallow deep

b. apple banana

c. suite sweet

d. table furniture

e. unmarried married

f. study studying

g. move run

h. sofa couch

i. green blue

j. punch touch

9. i. Propose a hypernym for each of the following words:

a. hammer

b. T-shirt

c. pink

d. fish

ii. Propose a hyponym for each of the following words:

e. appliance

f. musical instrument

g. furniture

h. fish

10. Come up with your own hierarchical hyponymy relationship for some

noun like the one given for poodle in File 6.2. It should have at least four

hierarchical levels. (For an extra challenge, try to do this exercise with

verbs as well!)

11. Consider the verbs sweat and perspire. Do they have the same sense? If not,

how are they different? Do they have the same reference? If not, how are

they different? Would you consider them to be synonyms, according to

the definition of synonyms in File 6.2? Why or why not?

12. Classify the following pairs of antonyms as complementary, gradable,

reverses, or converses:

a. wide/narrow

b. smoking/nonsmoking

c. inflate/deflate

d. defeat/lose to

e. good/bad

f. innocent/guilty

g. hot/cold

h. teacher/student

i. grow/shrink

13. Consider the English prefix un- that attaches to verbs to form such verbs as

the following:







Which type of antonym does un- create? Explain your answer.

14. Consider the English prefix in- that attaches to adjectives in order to form

such adjectives as the following:







Which type of antonym does in- create? Explain your answer.

17. For each of the following expressions, determine whether it expresses a

proposition or not. Remember, if you are dealing with a proposition, you

can question its truth value. For example, we know that Fido is a dog

expresses a proposition because we can ask Is it true that Fido is a dog?

Conversely, a dog all by itself does not express a proposition because we

cannot ask Is it true that a dog?

a. woman

b. like Bob

c. the smallest country in the world

d. Sally wondered who would be at the party

e. Bob hates Polly

f. accidentally

g. Polly liked

h. under the bed

i. Sally likes to sleep

j. bring some beer

18. For each of the following sentences, specify its truth conditions, i.e., under

what conditions it would be true. For example, Fluffy is a cat is true just in

case the individual Fluffy really is a cat.

a. Bob traveled to France.

b. Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.

c. It will rain tomorrow.

d. Peru is a country in Europe.

e. Paris is the capital of France.

f. The earth is not flat.

g. The moon is made of green cheese.

h. Some computers are able to synthesize human voices.

i. Last week a monkey and an elephant escaped from the zoo, broke into

the National Gallery, and stole a valuable painting.

j. You are currently looking at a copy of the 12th edition of Language


21. For each of the following pairs of sentences, tell whether they have the

same truth conditions or different truth conditions, and explain how you


a. I ate turkey at Thanksgiving.

I ate turkey at New Years.

b. There’s a sofa in the living room.

There’s a couch in the living room.

c. The first president of the United States had dental trouble.

George Washington had dental trouble.

d. Susan closed the door.

The door was closed by Susan.

e. Penguins live in Antarctica.

Penguins live on the coldest continent on Earth.

23. For each pair of the following sentences, determine whether one entails

the other, whether they are mutually entailing, whether they are

incompatible, or none of the above. Explain your answers.

a. Fifi is a poodle.

Fifi is a dog.

b. My last name is Jones.

My father’s last name was Jones.

c. Bob inherited a car from his grandma.

Bob owns a car.

d. Sally lives in Ohio.

Sally lives in Europe.

e. Sally lives in Ohio.

Sally lives in the United States.

f. Polly speaks Russian.

Polly is from Russia.

g. Polly doesn’t speak Russian.

Polly is from Russia.

h. Bob lives in the capital of Ohio.

Bob lives in Columbus.

i. Not all dogs bark.

Some dogs don’t bark.

j. Sally said she liked Polly.

Sally said she didn’t like Polly.

k. Polly thinks that Fido is a dog.

Fido is a dog.  

27. Each underlined expression below is an idiom. For each of them, explain

(i) what its non-compositional, idiomatic meaning is, and (ii) what its

compositional meaning is.

a. The cat is out of the bag.

b. Sally wouldn’t lift a finger.

c. That’s water under the bridge.

d. A picture is worth a thousand words.

e. Bob has a chip on his shoulder.

f. It was Polly’s birthday, so I picked up the tab. 

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