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SCIENTIA SINICA Informationis, Volume 49, Issue 8: 1005-1018(2019) https://doi.org/10.1360/N112018-00266

Knowledge representation of non-literal meanings of Chinese words and its applications

Long CHEN1,2, Qi RAO1,3, Yang LIU1,4,*
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  • ReceivedOct 8, 2018
  • AcceptedDec 26, 2018
  • PublishedAug 9, 2019

Abstract

As a parataxis language, Chinese is characterized by its word formation. The meanings of Chinese literal words can somehow be expressed by their word-formation patterns and morphemic concepts, but the meanings of non-literal words are quite deviant and retard a deeper understanding of the language. This paper discusses the knowledge representation of non-literal meanings of Chinese words from the perspective of language cognition. We explored the non-literal meanings of disyllabic words in the Modern Chinese Dictionary, labeled the meanings as specific metaphorical or metonymic types, and annotated their source and target domains in Tongyici Cilin and their synonyms with literal meanings. For the first time at the lexical level, our study systematically reveals the distribution of types and semantic domain mapping of Chinese metaphors and metonymy, as well as significantly improves the performance of word similarity calculations under the same algorithmic frame. These ideas, practices, and language resources construction are expected to promote the in-depth development of humanities and computing applications as well.


Funded by

国家社科基金一般项目(16BYY137)


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  • Table 1   Examples of semantic word-formation in Chinese
    Example POS Word-formation pattern 1st-morpheme POS 2nd-morpheme POS 1st-sememe 2nd-sememe
    选材(Choose-talent) Verb Verb-object Verbal Nominal 选1_04_01 材1_05_04
    铁窗(Iron-window) Noun Modifier-head Nominal Nominal 铁1_07_01 窗1_01_01
  • Table 2   Examples of POS changes
    Word Definition POS change Metonymy direction
    领导$_2$(Lead-guide) Leader V$\rightarrow$N Act$\rightarrow$Subject
    收入$_2$(Receive-in) Income V$\rightarrow$N Act$\rightarrow$Object
    摆渡$_3$(Take-ferry) Ferry V$\rightarrow$N Act$\rightarrow$Instrument
    撰述$_2$(Write-tell) Written work V$\rightarrow$N Act$\rightarrow$Result
    整齐$_2$(Orderly-neat) To make neat A$\rightarrow$V Attribute$\rightarrow$Cause
    无辜$_3$(No-sin) The innocent A$\rightarrow$N Attribute$\rightarrow$Subject
    新潮$_2$(New-tide) Modern N$\rightarrow$A Object$\rightarrow$Attribute
    补益$_2$(Advantage-benefit) To benefit N$\rightarrow$V Object$\rightarrow$Act
  • Table 3   Examples of other types
    Word Definition Metonymy direction
    花卉$_2$(Flower-flower) Chinese painting with flowers Content$\rightarrow$Artwork
    文书$_2$(Document-book) Secretary Work$\rightarrow$Worker
    官府$_2$(Officer-mansion) Feudal bureaucrat Working place$\rightarrow$Worker
    割席 (Split-mat) Break off a relation An act in a story$\rightarrow$The incident ensuing from the act
  • Table 4   Examples of synonyms with literal meanings for Chinese non-literal words
    Example Definition Type Sub-type Source Target Computational Literal meaning
    bearer of bearer
    铁窗(Iron-window) Jail Metonymy 2 Bn04 Dm02 监狱(jail-jail) [狱1\_02\_01,~监2\_02\_02]
    全豹(Whole-leopard) The whole thing Metaphor 1 Bi02 Da21 全貌(Whole-aspect) [貌1\_03\_02,~全1\_05\_03]
  • Table 5   The distribution of metaphor categories in Chinese words
    Metaphorical type Number Percentage (%) Example Literal meaning Non-literal meaning
    #1 1160 58.1 主将$_2$ (Main-general) [将1\_02\_01,~主1\_13\_06] [力1\_05\_02,~主1\_13\_06]
    #2 243 12.2 失足$_2$ (Lose-foot) [失1\_07\_02,~足1\_04\_01] [堕1\_01\_01,~落1\_12\_04]
    #3 73 3.7 沉浸 (Sink-immerse) [沉1\_06\_01,~浸1\_03\_01] [处2\_06\_03,~于1\_02\_01]
    #4 90 4.5 复活 (Again-live) [活1\_06\_01,~复3\_02\_01] [兴2\_07\_01,~复3\_02\_01]
    #5 109 5.5 保守$_2$ (Keep-guard) [保1\_07\_02,~守1\_05\_01] [守1\_05\_03,~旧1\_05\_01]
    #1, #4 6 0.3 葛藤 (Kudzu-vine) [藤1\_02\_01,~葛2\_02\_01] [纠1\_02\_01,~纷1\_02\_02]
    #1, #5 234 11.7 上供$_2$ (Offer-offerings) [上2\_14\_03,~供1\_02\_02] [行4\_13\_07,~贿1\_02\_02]
    #2, #5 39 2.0 插手$_2$ (Insert-hand) [插1\_02\_02,~手1\_07\_01] [介1\_04\_01,~入1\_05\_01]
    #3, #5 11 0.6 气焰 (Gas-flame) [气1\_14\_06,~焰1\_01\_01] [势1\_06\_01,~焰1\_01\_01]
    #4, #5 30 1.5 羽翼(Feather-wing) [羽1\_04\_02,~翼1\_07\_01] [手1\_07\_07,~助1\_01\_01]
    #1, #4, #5 2 0.1 鸡肋 (Chicken-rib) [肋1\_01\_01,~鸡1\_02\_01] [事1\_06\_01,~琐1\_02\_01]
  • Table 6   The distribution of metonymy categories in Chinese words
    Metonymic type Number Percentage (%) Example Literal meaning Non-literal meaning
    #1 750 49.1 编辑$_2$ (Edit-edit) [编1\_09\_03,~辑1\_02\_01] [者1\_06\_01,~编1\_09\_03]
    #2 190 12.4 铁窗 (Iron-window) [窗1\_01\_01,~铁1\_07\_01] [狱1\_02\_01,~监2\_02\_02]
    #3 587 38.4 官府 (Officer-mansion) [府1\_06\_01,~官1\_04\_01] [官1\_04\_01,~吏1\_03\_02]
  • Table 7   Examples of source and target domains with dominant distribution in metaphor
    Dominant source domain Number Example Dominant target domain Number Example
    Bk08 (Limb) 26 巨擘、手心$_2$、肘腋 Da21 (Situation) 29 地狱$_2$、平台$_4$、底牌$_2$
    Dh01 (Devil) 24 凶神、天仙、夜叉 Da20 (Trend) 26 春潮、暗流$_2$、死棋
    Hb02 (March and battle) 16 挑战$_2$、收兵$_2$、攻关 Ig01 (Begin and end) 21 萌发$_2$、起步$_2$、上马
  • Table 8   Examples of source and target domains with dominant distribution in metonymy
    Dominant source domain Number Example Dominant target domain Number Example
    Bk02 (Head or face) 13 头脸、头面、秃头$_4$ Dj08 (Fund or cost) 27 积蓄$_2$、茶钱$_2$、开销$_2$
    Hc09 (Preside or rule) 12 指挥$_2$、领队$_2$、主席 Ae01 (Worker or clerk) 26 剧务$_2$、总务$_2$、文书$_2$
    Dao1 (Things) 12 剧务$_2$、常务、机密 Af10 (Leader) 20 总裁、主席、领导$_2$
  • Table 9   The distribution of distances between source and target domains in metaphor and metonymy
    Location between Number of Percentage (%) Number of Percentage (%)
    source and target metaphoric words metonymic words
    In the same hang of the same ciqun 0 0 0 0
    In different hangs of the same ciqun 90 4.5 84 5.5
    In different ciquns of the same xiaolei 14 0.7 13 0.9
    In different xiaoleis of the same zhonglei 108 5.4 66 4.3
    In different zhongleis of the same dalei 420 21.0 170 11.1
    In different daleis 1365 68.4 444 (1194) 29.1 (78.3)
  • Table 10   The comparison of word similarity calculation results between the original method and method in this paper
    Word1 Non-literal Word2 Non-literal Original Ours
    meaning of word1 meaning of word2
    司机(Steer-machine) [手1\_07\_07,~车1\_07\_01] 开车(Drive-car) [开2\_18\_06,~车1\_07\_01] 0.527 0.083
    司机(Steer-machine) [手1\_07\_07,~车1\_07\_01] 乘客(Ride-guest) [客1\_10\_05,~乘4\_04\_01] 0.304 0.642
    铁窗(Iron-window) [狱1\_02\_01,~监2\_02\_02] 纱窗(Yarn-window) [窗1\_01\_01,~纱1\_04\_03] 0.967 0.780
    铁窗(Iron-window) [狱1\_02\_01,~监2\_02\_02] 牢房(Jail-house) [房1\_07\_02,~牢1\_05\_03] 0.374 0.910
    脾胃(Spleen-stomach) [志1\_03\_01,~趣1\_04\_03] 肠胃(Intestine-stomach) [肠1\_03\_01,~胃1\_02\_01] 1.000 0.282
    脾胃(Spleen-stomach) [志1\_03\_01,~趣1\_04\_03] 兴趣(Mood-interest) [兴1\_01\_01,~趣1\_04\_03] 0.542 0.917
    全豹(Whole-leopard) [貌1\_03\_02,~全1\_05\_01] 老虎(Old-tiger) [虎1\_04\_01,~老1\_17\_16] 0.895 0.336
    全豹(Whole-leopard) [貌1\_03\_02,~全1\_05\_01] 全局(Whole-situation) [局1\_10\_05,~全1\_05\_03] 0.426 0.648

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