A Glimpse Under the Surface: Language Understanding May Need Deep Syntactic Structure

  • Eva HajičováEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10415)


Language understanding is one of the crucial issues both for the theoretical study of language as well as for applications developed in the domain of natural language processing. As Katz (1969, p. 100) puts it “to understand the ability of natural languages to serve as instrument to the communication of thoughts and ideas we must understand what it is that permits those who speak them consistently to connect the right sounds with the right meanings.” The proper task of linguistics consists then in the description (and) explanation of the relation between the set of the semantic representations and that of the phonetic forms of utterances; at the same time, among the principal difficulties there belongs “a specification of the set of semantic representations” (Sgall and Hajičová 1970, p. 5). In our contribution, we present arguments for the approach that follows the tradition of European structuralism which attempted at an account of linguistic meaning the elements of which are understood as “points of intersection” of conceptual contents (as a reflection of reality) and the organizing principle of the grammar of the individual language (Dokulil and Daneš 1958). In other words, we examine how “deep” the sematic representations have to be in order (i) to give an appropriate account of synonymy, and (ii) to help to distinguish semantic differences in cases of ambiguity (homonymy).



This work has been supported by the LINDAT/CLARIN project of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (project LM2015071) and by the project No. GA17-07313S of the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Mathematics and Physics Institute of Formal and Applied LinguisticsCharles University in PraguePraha 1Czech Republic

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