What is Cognitive Science

Compositional Entailment in Adjective-Nouns

Ellie Pavlick

Thursday, October 13, 2016, 12:00pm - 01:00pm

Graduate Student, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Computer and Information Science

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The interpretation of adjective-noun compounds is crucial to our ability to make inferences in natural language. In formal semantics, adjectives are often placed in a hierarchy that should dictate their behavior when placed in adjective-noun compounds. For example, subsective adjectives like 'red' add new information that restricts the denotation of the head noun (e.g. a 'red car' is a 'car') while non-subsective adjectives like 'pretend' do not pick out a subset of the denotation of the head noun (e.g. a 'pretend car' is not a 'car').

In this talk, I will discuss experimental findings which suggest that adjective-noun composition is not as cut-and-dry as is often assumed. I will focus on two main questions: 1) when can a speaker add an adjective without communicating new information (i.e. without restricting the denotation of the noun)? and 2) when, if ever, does adding or removing an adjective produce a contradictory utterance (i.e. when is the denotation of the modified noun disjoint from that of the unmodified noun)? I will discuss our findings in the context of automatic systems for natural language understanding.


Ellie Pavlick

"What is Cognitive Science?"

This lunchtime talks series is designed to introduce the University community to issues in Cognitive Science. Cognitive Science is one the the few fields where modern developments in computer science and artificial intelligence promise to shed light on classical problems in psychology and the philosophy of the mind. Ancient questions of how we see the world, understand language, and reason, and questions such as 'how a material system can know about the outside world', are being explored with the powerful new conceptual prosthetics of computer modeling.

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