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Page 1: Semantic Glimmers: CSDL9

SEMANTIC GLIMMERS: PHONAESTHEMES FACILITATE

ACCESS TO SENTENCE MEANING

Eyal Sagi & Katya Otis, Northwestern University

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Phonaesthemes: phonetic clusters that occur in words that have noticeably similar meanings (Firth, 1930)

Example: gl- associated with “words relating to light, vision” (glimmer, glisten, glow, glare, glance)

Violates Saussurean notion of “arbitrariness of the sign” Not sound symbolism

Non-compositional: not properly morphemes

Form and Meaning

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Form and Meaning: Evidence Subtle regularities in word form can cue

syntactic category assignment

These regularities facilitate sentence comprehension Ambiguous sentences can be resolved faster

when “nouns sound like nouns; verbs sound like verbs”

Farmer, Christiansen, & Monaghan, 2006Monaghan, Chater, & Christiansen, 2005

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Phonaesthemes: Previous Research Hutchins (1998)

Speakers reliably matched phonaestheme-bearing words to glosses of the phonaestheme and vice versa.

Speakers ranked phonaestheme-bearing words’ coherence with a definition higher when the definition was a gloss of that phonaestheme.

Found variability in strength of association between 46 phonaesthemes and their glosses. Probed speakers’ declarative knowledge about

language, not their processing or implicit knowledge Words in isolation Rely on linguists’ intuitions

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Phonaesthemes: Previous Research Bergen (2004)

Morphological Priming paradigm Sharing a phonaestheme provided better

priming than either semantic or phonological similarity alone Rely on linguists’ intuitions to decide what

counts as a phonaestheme Words in isolation

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Hypotheses

1. Corpus analyses can help reveal regular relationships between form and meaning

2. Speakers use these regular relationships in language processing

Words Sentences

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Current Studies

Corpus analysis of phonetic clusters used by Hutchins (1998)

Experiment 1: Sentence completion task Experiment 2: Paraphrase task

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Corpus Analysis: Method

Latent Semantic Analysis Words as vectors in a

semantic space Similar meaning

Similar vector direction Standard measure:

Cosine of angle = Correlation between the vectors

Semantic vectors can be combined

gl-(combined vector)

ray

glance

glisten

glare

vision

light’

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Corpus Analysis: Method

If a cluster of words is semantically related, the respective word vectors will be more correlated than expected by chance.

Monte-Carlo analysis Compare combined vectors of word pairs within a

phonaestheme cluster with combined vectors of randomly-chosen word pairs.

Quantitative criterion for phonaestheme strength Measure: # of significant t-tests (p < .05)

If 15 of 100 t-tests conducted are significant, then the phonaestheme is statistically supported (overall p < .05)

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Corpus Analysis: Input

Public domain literary works from Project Gutenberg 4034 documents Over 290 million words

50 candidate phonaesthemes 46 used by Hutchins (1998) 4 new clusters: br-, -ign, kn-, z-

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Corpus Analysis: Results

27 of 50 phonaesthemes met our criterion for significance

Replicated Hutchins’ survey results # of significant t-tests correlates with

Hutchins’ word-gloss relatedness ratings (r = 0.53)

# of stems correlates highly with Hutchins’ # of types (r = 0.93)

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Experiment 1

Hutchins’ gloss-matching experiment tested psychological reality of explicit semantic knowledge about phonaesthemes

What about implicit, contextual knowledge about phonaesthemes?

Do phonaesthemes influence our word choice when composing sentences?

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Experiment 1: Method

36 phonaestheme-bearing from 6 phonaestheme clusters kn-, gl-, sn-, -oop, -ump, -ign

36 accompanying sentence contexts Highly congruent with one target word,

incongruent with another Transformed targets into nonsense words

Normed for opaqueness: nonsense words whose target was too easily guessed were not used

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Experiment 1: Method

The stone's _______ flashed from under the leaves.

1. lague2. glandor3. thoop

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Experiment 1: Results

• Phonaestheme vector similarity to sentence vector predicted word choice (r = .4, p < .05)

% of responses

0%

5%

10%

15%

20%

25%

30%

35%

40%

45%

50%

Congruent Neutral Incongruent

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Experiment 1: Results

Speakers can use phonaesthemes to guess a word’s meaning in sentence contexts

Phonaestheme’s meaning must cohere with the sentence

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Experiment 2: Method

Participants asked to read and paraphrase sentences

Same materials as in experiment 1: Congruent: The stone's glandor flashed from under the

leaves. Incongruent: The stone's thoop flashed from under the

leaves. Neutral: The stone's lague flashed from under the leaves.

3 measures: Comprehension latency Typing latency Ratings of paraphrases

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Experiment 2: Method

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Experiment 2: Results

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Experiment 2: Results

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Experiment 2: Results

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Experiment 2: Results

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Conclusions

Form-meaning relationships can benefit from computational methods Detecting semantic clusters Criterion for evaluating form-meaning links

Speakers use phonaesthemes to disambiguate unfamiliar words in sentence contexts

Disambiguation is easier when the context coheres with the phonaestheme’s semantic contribution

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Future Directions

Spoken language more appropriate for sound similarity studies? BNC Spoken corpus analysis Experiments using audible stimuli


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