Colloquium: Mira Ariel (Tel Aviv University)

Event Date: 

Thursday, March 1, 2018 - 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • South Hall 3605

Speaker: Mira Ariel (Tel Aviv University)

Topic: "Tell me who your neighbors are"

Reception: All are invited to a reception following the talk

Tell me who your neighbors are


Mira Ariel

University of Tel Aviv


Most lexical items, such as nice, are members of sparse lexical domains. These contain relatively few competing members (e.g., attractive, enjoyable), which moreover differ from each other on a number of parameters. The relatively large semantic distance between the expressions allows for contextual adjustments whereby the meaning of e.g. nice encroaches on its neighbors. The linguistic number system is quite different. It offers an extremely dense partition of the relevant semantic field. For any given number expression (say, five) there exist an unusually high number of distinct number expressions in the immediate semantic neighborhood (e.g., 3, 4, 6, 7), which moreover differ from each other on a single parameter. There is no routine need to contextually adjust the meaning of number expressions, so each of them is literally faithful (i.e., interpreted as 'exactly N', density blocking encroachment upon neighboring number expressions). The implications of this difference are that number expressions must be specially marked in order to "broaden" their interpretation. They are also more resistant to semantic change and to renewal.