Lexical Patterns: from Hornby to Hunston and beyond. The Hornby Lecture
Hanks, P. (2008) Lexical Patterns: from Hornby to Hunston and beyond. The Hornby Lecture. In: Bernal, E. and DeCesaris, J., eds. (2008) Proceedings of the XIII EURALEX International Congress (Barcelona, 15-19 July 2008). Barcelona: Iula, Documenta Universitaria. ISBN 978-84-96742-67-3
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Correct identification of word meaning is a long-standing problem for lexicography, language teaching, linguistic theory, and computer processing of text. Traditional approaches typically proceed word by word, relying on evidence from introspection – and have failed. A new theory of meaning is needed. In this prototype-based approach, called the Theory of Norms and Exploitations (TNE), the first step is identifying the phraseological patterns with which each word is associated. Meanings are then associated with patterns, rather than with isolated words. Words are highly ambiguous, but patterns are mostly unambiguous. Patterns cannot be identified by valency alone, but require statistical analysis and semantic typing of collocates. For example, (1) blowing up a bridge and (2) blowing up a balloon activate different meanings of blow up. But how many other contexts have the same effect on the meaning of the phrasal verb? Relevant members of the lexical set for (1) include building, factory, house, hotel, etc. Such lexical sets provide a basis for machine learning and text processing. Authentic uses of words are classified either as normal components of a pattern or as exploitations of norms. For example, “blowing up a condom” is not normal, but exploits (2). Creative metaphors are also exploitations.