Publication details [#5821]

Markert, Katja and Udo Hahn. 2002. Metonymies in discourse. 54 pp. URL


We propose a new computational model for the resolution of metonymies, a particular type of figurative language. Typically, metonymies are considered as a violation of semantic constraints (e.g., those expressed by selectional restrictions) that require some repair mechanism (e.g., type coercion) for proper interpretation. We reject this view, arguing that it misses out on the interpretation of a considerable number of utterances. Instead, we treat literal and figurative language on a par, by computing both kinds of interpretation independently from each other as long as their semantic representation structures are consistent with the underlying knowledge representation structures of the domain of discourse. The following general heuristic principles apply for making reasonable selections from the emerging readings. We argue that the embedding of utterances in a coherent discourse context is as important for recognizing and interpreting metonymic utterances as intrasentential semantic constraints. Therefore, in our approach, (metonymic or literal) interpretations that establish referential cohesion are preferred over ones that do not. In addition, metonymic interpretations that conform to a metonymy schema are preferred over metonymic ones that do not, and metonymic interpretations that are in conformance with knowledge-based aptness conditions are preferred over metonymic ones that are not. We lend further credit to our model by discussing empirical data from an evaluation study which highlights the importance of the discourse embedding of metonymy interpretation for both anaphora and metonymy resolution. (Katja Markert and Udo Hahn)