Much work in contemporary computational semantics follows the distributional hypothesis (DH), which is understood as an approach to semantics according to which the meaning of a word is a function of its distribution over contexts which is represented as vectors (word embeddings) within a multi-dimensional semantic space. In practice, use is identified with occurrence in text corpora, though there are some efforts to use corpora containing multi-modal information. In this paper we argue that the distributional hypothesis is intrinsically misguided as a self-supporting basis for semantics, as Firth was entirely aware. We mention philosophical arguments concerning the lack of normativity within DH data. Furthermore, we point out the shortcomings of DH as a model of learning, by discussing a variety of linguistic classes that cannot be learnt on a distributional basis, including indexicals, proper names, and wh-phrases. Instead of pursuing DH, we sketch an account of the problematic learning cases by integrating a rich, Firthian notion of dialogue context with interactive learning in signalling games backed by in probabilistic Type Theory with Records. We conclude that the success of the DH in computational semantics rests on a post hoc effect: DS presupposes a referential semantics on the basis of which utterances can be produced, comprehended and analysed in the first place.
Generating “commonsense’’ knowledge for intelligent understanding and reasoning is a difficult, long-standing problem, whose scale challenges the capacity of any approach driven primarily by human input. Furthermore, approaches based on mining statistically repetitive patterns fail to produce the rich representations humans acquire, and fall far short of human efficiency in inducing knowledge from text. The idea of our approach to this problem is to provide a learning system with a “head start” consisting of a semantic parser, some basic ontological knowledge, and most importantly, a small set of very general schemas about the kinds of patterns of events (often purposive, causal, or socially conventional) that even a one- or two-year-old could reasonably be presumed to possess. We match these initial schemas to simple children’s stories, obtaining concrete instances, and combining and abstracting these into new candidate schemas. Both the initial and generated schemas are specified using a rich, expressive logical form. While modern approaches to schema reasoning often only use slot-and-filler structures, this logical form allows us to specify complex relations and constraints over the slots. Though formal, the representations are language-like, and as such readily relatable to NL text. The agents, objects, and other roles in the schemas are represented by typed variables, and the event variables can be related through partial temporal ordering and causal relations. To match natural language stories with existing schemas, we first parse the stories into an underspecified variant of the logical form used by the schemas, which is suitable for most concrete stories. We include a walkthrough of matching a children’s story to these schemas and generating inferences from these matches.
Dependent Type Semantics (DTS; Bekki and Mineshima, 2017) is a proof-theoretic compositional dynamic semantics based on Dependent Type Theory. The semantic representations for declarative sentences in DTS are types, based on the propositions-as-types paradigm. While type-theoretic semantics for natural language based on dependent type theory has been developed by many authors, how to assign semantic representations to interrogative sentences has been a non-trivial problem. In this study, we show how to provide the semantics of interrogative sentences in DTS. The basic idea is to assign the same type to both declarative sentences and interrogative sentences, partly building on the recent proposal in Inquisitive Semantics. We use Combinatory Categorial Grammar (CCG) as a syntactic component of DTS and implement our compositional semantics for interrogative sentences using ccg2lambda, a semantic parsing platform based on CCG. Based on the idea that the relationship between questions and answers can be formulated as the task of Recognizing Textual Entailment (RTE), we implement our inference system using proof assistant Coq and show that our system can deal with a wide range of question-answer relationships discussed in the formal semantics literature, including those with polar questions, alternative questions, and wh-questions.
We outline a hyperintensional situation semantics in which hyperintensionality is modelled as a ‘side effect’, as this term has been understood in natural language semantics and in functional programming. We use monads from category theory in order to ‘upgrade’ an ordinary intensional semantics to a possible hyperintensional counterpart.