The curious case of metonymic verbs: A distributional characterization


Logical metonymy combines an event-selecting verb with an entity-denoting noun (e.g., The writer began the novel), triggering a covert event interpretation (e.g., reading, writing). Experimental investigations of logical metonymy must assume a binary distinction between metonymic (i.e. event-selecting) verbs and non-metonymic verbs to establish a control condition. However, this binary distinction (whether a verb is metonymic or not) is mostly made on intuitive grounds, which introduces a potential confounding factor. We describe a corpus-based approach which characterizes verbs in terms of their behavior at the syntax-semantics interface. The model assesses the extent to which transitive verbs prefer event-denoting objects over entity-denoting objects. We then test this “eventhood” measure on psycholinguistic datasets, showing that it can distinguish not only metonymic from non-metonymic verbs, but that it can also capture more fine-grained distinctions among different classes of metonymic verbs, putting such distinctions into a new graded perspective.

Proceedings of the IWCS 2013 Workshop “Towards a Formal Distributional Semantics”
Alessandra Zarcone
Alessandra Zarcone
Professor of Language Technologies and Cognitive Assistants

Computational linguist with a background in NLP and in psycholinguistics, working on human-machine interaction.