Assignment 4

Semantic Structures by Ray Jackendoff (Conceptual Semantics, Argument Structure & Thematic Roles)

How does a person percieve concepts, thoughts and ideas and what role does language play in this process ? Is there a formal language by which we can understand or represent these concepts, both inside the brain and outside the brain ? Jackendoff tries to answer these questions by creating a conceptual structure for semantic analysis that he calls Conceptual Semantics.


The Measurement Of Meaning by Charles E. Osgood, George J. Suci, Percy H. Tannenbaum (The Dimensionality of Semantic Space)

The chapter deals with various factor analysis studies in the meaningful judgment of a multidimensional exploratory task. It tries to determine the primary dimensions of the semantic space by considering three main sources of variability - subjects, scales and concepts judged and thus obtain a factor which accounts for the variance in meaningful judgment. The generality of this structure is ascertained as the various studies span over varied subject populations, varied concepts judged, varied methods of collecting data and varied factoring methods used in treating the data but the same primary factors keep repeating despite these modifications. Three Analysis methods were detailed by the authors:

Centroid Factorization, Graphic Method
Used 50 scales, 100 subjects and 20 concepts, out of which the subjects were undergraduate students to represent a myriad of population with higher average intelligence to yield a clearer picture of the most finely differentiated semantic space, samples of scale were obtained by making the subjects do a the free association of selected stimulus nouns with the first descriptive adjective that occurred to per noun. The concepts were selected by the experimenters. This combination of scales, concepts and subjects generated a 3 dimensional matrix which was then analyzed to obtain inter-correlations. The Thurstone's Centroid Factor method was then used on this matrix of correlations to extract factors: evaluative, potency and activity with evaluative playing the most dominant role in meaningful judgments.

D-Factorization, Force Choice Method
The Graphics method might have some bias because the sampling of the 20 concepts might be non-representative and hence this method. It used the same sample of scale, with only 40 subjects and no specific concepts at all. The two dimensional matrix of data thus obtained was factored using the D-method, the diagonal method given by Thurstone. This method also ultimately yields the same factors: evaluative, potency and activity. This similarity of results in the Graphics method and the Force choice method states that there is something consistent in the structuring of human thinking. It also places high priority on the evaluative significance of things but probably a few factors could not appear clearly because of insufficient scales. This led the authors to study a third Sampling technique - Thesaurus sampling

Thesaurus Sampling
Here 289 adjective pairs were extracted from the Roget Thesaurus by two people independently. These were then filtered down to 76 variables. 100 undergraduate subjects were again used in the analysis of these 76 scales over 20 concepts more representative this time). After employing Centroid Factor Analysis, Quartimax Rotation of the centroid and then Square Root Factorization on the data obtained, resulted in the following factors: evaluative, oriented activity, stability, tautness, novelty, receptivity and aggressiveness. The increase in the number of factors generated by this sampling can be attributed to the tight clusters of scales which were then deliberately broken up to increase the diversity of sampling. Although, the non-primary factors contribute lesser towards variance.

The authors also go on to briefing a few other studies aimed directly at the factorial structure inherent ina group of adjectival scales like Judgments of sonar signals by Sonar Operators, Judgment of representational paintings by non-artists.

This study reveals that semantic space is a multidimensional space and all the dimensions are not equally important in mediating judgment. If meanings vary multidimensionally then any adequate measuring instrument must encompass this fact. The relative importance of various dimensions (evaluative > potency or activity > others)of a semantic space, represents the human thinking in terms of the relative use of these dimensions in meaningful discrimination.


Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff & Mark Johnson

This chapter is in itself a Metaphorology - the study and usage of metaphors as a thinking tool as well as an instrument for slowly tranforming our thought process. Metaphor is commonly considered as a rhetorical device of poets and is used for making thoughts more vivid and imaginative - a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. But people use metaphors in daily literal sense and that not only effects the way they communicate ideas but it also implicitly structures their perceptions and actions. The authors suggest that metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, and are not just matters of language but also help shape our thought, reasoning and action. They say that Metaphor is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of numerous other abstract domains.

After demonstrating the pervasiveness of metaphor, the second contribution of the authors is in showing a small number of highly productive metaphor schema that underly much of language understanding. Such schemata are motivated, but not predicted. It is easy to see why 'less is down' is a better metaphor than 'less is up', but one still has to learn which of the many reasonable metaphors are actually used within a culture. Once the metaphor schema is learned, it is easy to generate new instances of it. The theory of metaphor also says that metaphors arise from objective similarity. Thus, we can speak of `digesting an idea' because the mental action of attending to the expression of an idea, reasoning about it, and coming to understand it is objectively similar to the physical action of ingesting food, breaking it into nutrients, and absorbing them into the system. The authors argue against the idea of a priori objective similarity. They claim metaphors do not just point out similarities that are objectively true, they create the similarities.

They also state how a new metaphor to an existing concept can change its meaning. If a new metaphor enters the conceptual system and we base our actions on it, then it will alter that conceptual system and the perceptions and hence the actions that follow. Words do not alter reality, but they do alter our perception of the world and hence the actions which are based upon those perceptions.

They explain an experientialist synthesis which states that Metaphor is imaginative rationlity i.e it unites reason and imagination. This approach allows to bridge the gap between the objectivist and the subjectivis myths about imapartiality and the possiblity of being fair. Truth is relative to ones understanding of a particular concept which is governed by the metaphors we associate with the concept. And the meaning of a Metaphor for an individual is partially culturally defined and partially has been built by past experiences. Thus Metaphors play a central role in the construction of social and political reality.

Apart from jargons, Experts (photographers in my project context) have also created metaphors for existing processes to make them more gestural, understandable, natural, and communicable. The Jargons and Metaphors formate a new language through which experts comminicate with each other and also nurturing the culture of their field. Since the metaphors help symobilize the processes, they are important identifiers for objectifying something onto the screen - either an action, or a state, or an object.