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Semantic Primitives

Categories: Natural Language


Author(s): Karen Sp\"arck Jones

The general concepts underlying words, used for the determination and representation of textual or propositional meaning, e.g., MOVE underlies `walk' and `run', THING `vase' and `book'. Semantic primitives are used to define selection criteria for sense identification, and to define key properties, e.g., of Case Frame role fillers. Primitives, which should in principle be drawn from a closed set, may be shallow or deep, i.e., more or less fine-grained, domain-independent or domain-dependent, categorial or relational, etc. The characterisations of word (senses) may be by single primitives, primitive sets, or structured formulae, and the primitive characterisations of sentences may be more or less elaborately structured. The primitive names may be regarded as elements of a distinct meaning representation language, or as selected elements of the language under description. Though primitives universally figure in some form or other in language understanding systems, they are more frequently adopted ad hoc than systematically motivated. Wilks and Schank are exceptions here.


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