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In
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
, a word sense is one of the meanings of a
word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most lang ...

word
. Words are in two sets: a large set with multiple meanings (word senses) and a small set with only one meaning (word sense). For example, a
dictionary A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged Alphabetical order, alphabetically (or by radical-and-stroke sorting, radical and stroke for ideographic languages), which may include in ...

dictionary
may have over 50 different senses of the word "
play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity) Play is a range of Motivation#Incentive theories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, intrinsically motivated activities done for recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Play is commonly associated w ...
", each of these having a different meaning based on the
context Context may refer to: * Context (language use) In semiotics, linguistics, sociology and anthropology, context refers to those objects or entities which surround a ''focal event'', in these disciplines typically a communication, communicative event ...
of the word's
usage The usage of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to in ...
in a
sentence Sentence(s) or The Sentence may refer to: Common uses * Sentence (law), the punishment a judge gives to a defendant found guilty of a crime * Sentence (linguistics), a grammatical unit of language * Sentence (mathematical logic), a formula not cont ...
, as follows: In each sentence we associate a different meaning of the word "play" based on hints the rest of the sentence gives us. People and
computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as Computer program, programs. These ...

computer
s, as they read words, must use a process called
word-sense disambiguation Word-sense disambiguation (WSD) is an open problemIn science and mathematics, an open problem or an open question is a known problem which can be accurately stated, and which is assumed to have an objective and verifiable solution, but which has n ...
R. Navigli
''Word Sense Disambiguation: A Survey
', ACM Computing Surveys, 41(2), 2009, pp. 1-69.
to find the correct meaning of a word. This process uses
context Context may refer to: * Context (language use) In semiotics, linguistics, sociology and anthropology, context refers to those objects or entities which surround a ''focal event'', in these disciplines typically a communication, communicative event ...
to narrow the possible senses down to the probable ones. The context includes such things as the ideas conveyed by adjacent words and nearby phrases, the known or probable purpose and
register A register is an authoritative list of one kind of information. Register or registration may refer to: Arts entertainment, and media Music * Register (music), the relative "height" or range of a note, melody, part, instrument, etc. * ''Regis ...
of the conversation or document, and the orientation (time and place) implied or expressed. The disambiguation is thus context-sensitive. Advanced semantic analysis has resulted in a sub-distinction. A word sense corresponds either neatly to a seme (the smallest possible unit of
meaning Meaning most commonly refers to: * Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language * Meaning (philosophy), definition, elements, and types of meaning discussed in philosophy * Meaning (non-linguistic), a general ter ...
) or a
sememe __NOTOC__ A sememe () is a semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by whi ...
(larger unit of meaning), and
polysemy Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings. Polysemy is thus distinct from homonymy In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are h ...
of a word of phrase is the property of having multiple semes or sememes and thus multiple senses.


Relations between senses

Often the senses of a word are related to each other within a
semantic field In , a semantic field is a lexical set of words grouped (by ) that refers to a specific subject.Howard Jackson, Etienne Zé Amvela, ''Words, Meaning, and Vocabulary'', Continuum, 2000, p14. The term is also used in ,Ingold, Tim (1996). ''Key deba ...
. A common pattern is that one sense is broader and another narrower. This is often the case in technical
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
, where the
target audience A target audience is the intended audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creation of aesthetic Aesthet ...
uses a narrower sense of a word that a
general audience In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept to the sociology, sociological concept of the ''Ö ...
would tend to take in its broader sense. For example, in casual use "
orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions b ...
" will often be glossed for a lay audience as "
spelling Spelling is a set of conventions that regulate the way of using grapheme In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...

spelling
", but in linguistic
usage The usage of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to in ...
"orthography" (comprising spelling,
casing Casing may refer to an enclosing wikt:shell, shell, wikt:tube, tube, or surrounding material. It may also refer to: * Cartridge (firearms), shell enclosing the explosive propellant in ammunition * Casing (borehole), metal tube used during the dril ...
,
spacing
spacing
,
hyphen The hyphen is a punctuation Punctuation (or sometimes interpunction) is the use of spacing, conventional signs (called punctuation marks), and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading of written text, ...
ation, and other
punctuation Punctuation (or sometimes interpunction) is the use of spacing, conventional signs (called punctuation marks), and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading of written text, whether read silently or aloud. An ...
) is a
hypernym In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
of "spelling". Besides jargon, however, the pattern is common even in general vocabulary. Examples are the
variation in senses of the term "wood wool"
variation in senses of the term
and
in those of the word "bean"
in those of the word
. This pattern entails that
natural language In neuropsychology Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology. It is concerned with how a person's cognition and behavior are related to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Professionals in this branch of psychology often focus on ...
can often lack explicitness about
hyponymy and hypernymy In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
. Much more than
programming language A programming language is a formal language In logic, mathematics, computer science, and linguistics, a formal language consists of string (computer science), words whose symbol (formal), letters are taken from an alphabet (computer science) ...

programming language
s do, it relies on context instead of explicitness; meaning is implicit within a context. Common examples are as follows: * The word "diabetes" without further specification usually refers to
diabetes mellitus Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as just diabetes, is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by a hyperglycemia, high blood sugar level over a prolonged period of time. Symptoms often include frequent urination, Polydipsia, increased th ...
. * The word "angina" without further specification usually refers to
angina pectoris Angina, also known as angina pectoris, is chest pain Chest pain is pain or discomfort in the chest, typically the front of the chest. It may be described as sharp, dull, pressure, heaviness or squeezing. Associated symptoms may include pain in ...

angina pectoris
. * The word "tuberculosis" without further specification usually refers to
pulmonary tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by ''Mycobacterium tuberculosis'' (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections show no symptoms, in which cas ...
. * The word "emphysema" without further specification usually refers to
pulmonary emphysema Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by long-term breathing problems and poor airflow. The main symptoms include shortness of breath and cough with sputum production. COPD is a progress ...
. * The word "cervix" without further specification usually refers to the
uterine cervix The cervix or cervix uteri (Latin, 'neck of the uterus') is the lower part of the uterus in the human female reproductive system. The cervix is usually 2 to 3 cm long (~1 inch) and roughly cylindrical in shape, which changes during pregnanc ...

uterine cervix
. Usage labels of "''
sensu ''Sensu'' is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Ro ...
''" plus a qualifier, such as "''sensu stricto''" ("in the strict sense") or "''sensu lato''" ("in the broad sense") are sometimes used to clarify what is meant by a text.


Relation to etymology

Polysemy entails a common historic root to a word or phrase. Broad medical terms usually followed by qualifiers, such as those in relation to certain conditions or types of anatomical locations are polysemic, and older conceptual words are with few exceptions highly polysemic (and usually beyond shades of similar meaning into the realms of being
ambiguous Ambiguity is a type of meaning in which a phrase, statement or resolution is not explicitly defined, making several interpretations plausible. A common aspect of ambiguity is uncertainty Uncertainty refers to Epistemology, epistemic sit ...
).
Homonym In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation) or homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. For example, acc ...
y is where two separate-root words (
lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeol ...
s) happen to have the same
spelling Spelling is a set of conventions that regulate the way of using grapheme In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...

spelling
and
pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful d ...
.


See also

*
Denotation The denotation of a word is its central sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human bod ...
*
semantics Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another ...
– study of meaning *
lexical semantics Lexical semantics (also known as lexicosemantics), as a subfield of linguistics, linguistic semantics, is the study of word meanings.Pustejovsky, J. (2005) Lexical Semantics: Overview' in Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, second edition, V ...
– the study of what the words of a language denote and how it is that they do this * word sense induction – the task of automatically acquiring the senses of a target word *
word sense disambiguation Word-sense disambiguation (WSD) is an open problemIn science and mathematics, an open problem or an open question is a known problem which can be accurately stated, and which is assumed to have an objective and verifiable solution, but which has n ...
– the task of automatically associating a sense with a word in context * lexical substitution – the task of replacing a word in context with a lexical substitute *
sememe __NOTOC__ A sememe () is a semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by whi ...
– unit of meaning *
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
– the scientific study of language, which can be theoretical or applied. *
sense and reference In the philosophy of language In analytic philosophy, philosophy of language investigates the nature of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed lan ...


References

{{Reflist


External links


”I don’t believe in word senses”
Adam Kilgarriff (1997) -
WordNet(R)
- A large lexical database of English words and their meanings maintained by the Princeton Cognitive Science Laboratory. Lexical semantics Semantics Word-sense disambiguation Philosophical logic