Beth Levin


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From Insanely Jealous to Insanely Delicious: Computational Models for the Semantic Bleaching of English Intensifiers
Yiwei Luo | Dan Jurafsky | Beth Levin
Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Computational Approaches to Historical Language Change

We introduce novel computational models for modeling semantic bleaching, a widespread category of change in which words become more abstract or lose elements of meaning, like the development of “arrive” from its earlier meaning ‘become at shore.’ We validate our methods on a widespread case of bleaching in English: de-adjectival adverbs that originate as manner adverbs (as in “awfully behaved”) and later become intensifying adverbs (as in “awfully nice”). Our methods formally quantify three reflexes of bleaching: decreasing similarity to the source meaning (e.g., “awful”), increasing similarity to a fully bleached prototype (e.g., “very”), and increasing productivity (e.g., the breadth of adjectives that an adverb modifies). We also test a new causal model and find evidence that bleaching is initially triggered in contexts such as “conspicuously evident” and “insanely jealous”, where an adverb premodifies a semantically similar adjective. These contexts provide a form of “bridging context” (Evans and Wilkins, 2000) that allow a manner adverb to be reinterpreted as an intensifying adverb similar to “very”.


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Exploiting Lexical Regularities in Designing Natural Language Systems
Boris Katz | Beth Levin
Coling Budapest 1988 Volume 1: International Conference on Computational Linguistics