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[ontolog-forum] Compound nouns

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From: Simon Spero <sesuncedu@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2013 18:23:28 -0400
Message-id: <CADE8KM6PP7m_FaPm70+Jx-TEvvPD3WtOBc55FyYjxk008mfD1w@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 2:11 PM, Barkmeyer, Edward J <edward.barkmeyer@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
There is nothing inaccurate about having the term "pineapple tree" in your ontology.  The inaccuracy would be in saying that it is a subtype of "tree", assuming that we all agree on the definition of "tree".  The assumption that the word "tree" appearing in the term "pineapple tree" implies some well-defined relationship is unwarranted.  This is the kind of thing that comes from trying to guess what is meant by looking at natural language cues.  Sometimes you guess wrong!

Fabian Neuhaus's favorite example is "fake diamond".  It is by definition NOT a kind of "diamond".

 The meaning of the phrase  pineapple tree is endocentric - that is to say, the meaning of the whole is derived from its constituent parts.
It is is about as close to canonical an English noun-noun compound as they get (which isn't very).  

1. It is right headed (tree is the head noun, and pineapple is the modifier).
2. The specialization in meaning obtained via the modifier is the prototypical specialization for other modifiers in the same general category (an apple tree is a  tree on which apples grow; a cherry tree is a tree  on which cherries grow.  
3.  If pineapples grew on trees, they would grow on pineapple trees. 

There is considerable difference between pineapple tree and syntax tree ; one would not expect to be able to build a tree house in the latter, nor to hang a bird house from its branches.  

Fake diamond is much more complicated to analyze.  Syntactically, diamond is still the head, but semantically, modifier fake carries with it  the partial meaning that it is something that has a very strong superficial resemblance to a real diamond, but which lacks some critical property.  The common super-ordinate  category would appear to be things which resemble diamonds.  

More complicated still is the case of toys.   A toy dog  is a toy shaped like a dog,  but a toy poodle is a dog (and a dog toy is a toy for use by dogs).     

For more fun, consider  White tigers, Paper tigers, Paper Airplanes, and Model airplanes. 


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