Explaining Meaning: The Interplay of Syntax, Semantics, and Pragmatics

  • Yulia ZinovaEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11456)


Russian verbal prefixes are traditionally analysed as polysemous and their contribution often appears to be unpredictable. Exploring in detail two of them, po- and na-, I show how most of the variation in their interpretations can be predicted by combining the Frame Semantic analysis offered in Zinova (2017) with pragmatic computation within Rational Speech Act theory. The set of possible competing expressions is determined on the basis of morphological information and context-dependent syntactic restrictions on the verb. Such a system where morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics work together allows to explain (most of) the apparent polysemy and non-transparency of verbal prefixes.


Russian Frame semantics Lexical semantics Pragmatic competition RSA Verbal prefixation 

Supplementary material


  1. Barsalou, L.W.: Frames, concepts, and conceptual fields. In: Lehrer, A., Kittay, E.F. (eds.) Frames, Fields, and Contrasts, New Essays in Semantic and Lexical Organization, Chap. 1, pp. 21–74. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale (1992)Google Scholar
  2. Braginsky, P.: The semantics of the Prefix ZA - in Russian. Ph.D. thesis, Bar-Ilan University, Department of English (2008)Google Scholar
  3. Efremova, T.F.: Novyj slovar russkogo jazyka. Tolkovo-slovoobrazovatel’nyj [New dictionary of Russian. Explanatory and interpretational]. Russkij jazyk, Moscow (2000)Google Scholar
  4. Filip, H.: The quantization puzzle. In: Pustejovsky, J., Tenny, C. (eds.) Events as Grammatical Objects, pp. 3–60. CSLI Press, Stanford (2000)Google Scholar
  5. Filip, H.: Measures and indefinites. In: Carlson, G.N., Pelletier, F.J. (eds.) References and Quantification: The Partee Effect, pp. 229–288. CSLI Publications, Stanford (2005)Google Scholar
  6. Fillmore, C.J.: Frame semantics. In: Linguistic Society of Korea (ed.) Linguistics in the Morning Calm, pp. 111–137. Hanshin Publishing Co., Seoul (1982)Google Scholar
  7. Frank, M.C., Goodman, N.D.: Predicting pragmatic reasoning in language games. Science 336(6084), 998 (2012)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Goodman, N.D., Frank, M.C.: Pragmatic language interpretation as probabilistic inference. Trends Cogn. Sci. 20, 818–829 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goodman, N.D., Tenenbaum, J.B.: Probabilistic Models of Cognition (2016). Accessed 2 Mar 2018
  10. Grice, H.P.: Logic and conversation. In: Cole, P., Morgan, J.L. (eds.) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts, pp. 41–58. Academic Press, New York (1975)Google Scholar
  11. Joshi, A.K.: Tree adjoining grammars: how much contextsensitivity is required to provide reasonable structural descriptions? In: Dowty, D., Karttunen, L., Zwicky, A. (eds.) Natural Language Parsing, pp. 206–250. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Joshi, A.K.: An introduction to Tree Adjoining Grammars. In: Manaster-Ramer, A. (ed.) Mathematics of Language, pp. 87–114. John Benjamins, Amsterdam (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Joshi, A.K., Schabes, Y.: Tree-adjoining grammars. In: Rozenberg, G., Salomaa, A. (eds.) Handbook of Formal Languages, pp. 69–123. Springer, Heidelberg (1997). Scholar
  14. Kagan, O.: Scalarity in the Verbal Domain: The Case of Verbal Prefixation in Russian. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2015)Google Scholar
  15. Kagan, O., Pereltsvaig, A.: Bare NPs and semantic incorporation: objects of intensive reflexives at the syntax-semantics interface. In: Browne, W., Cooper, A., Fisher, A., Kesici, E., Predolac, N., Zec, D. (eds.) Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics 18: The Cornell Meeting, pp. 226–240. Michigan Slavic Publications, Ann Arbor (2011a)Google Scholar
  16. Kagan, O., Pereltsvaig, A.: Syntax and semantics of bare nps: Objects of intensive reflexive verbs in russian. In O. Bonami and P. C. Hofherr, editors, Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 8, 221–238 (2011b)Google Scholar
  17. Kallmeyer, L., Osswald, R.: A frame-based semantics of the dative alternation in lexicalized tree adjoining grammars. Submitted to Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics, vol. 9 (2012)Google Scholar
  18. Kallmeyer, L., Osswald, R.: Syntax-driven semantic frame composition in lexicalized tree adjoining grammars. J. Lang. Model. 1(2), 267–330 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kallmeyer, L., Osswald, R., Pogodalla, S.: Progression and iteration in event semantics - an LTAG analysis using hybrid logic and frame semantics. In: Colloque de Syntaxe et Sémantique à Paris (CSSP 2015) (2015)Google Scholar
  20. Kennedy, C., Levin, B.: Telicity corresponds to degree of change. Unpublished MS, Northwestern University and Stanford University (2002)Google Scholar
  21. Löbner, S.: Evidence for frames from human language. In: Gamerschlag, T., Gerland, D., Osswald, R., Petersen, W. (eds.) Frames and Concept Types, Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy, pp. 23–67. Springer, Cham (2014). Scholar
  22. Petersen, W.: Representation of concepts as frames. Balt. Int. Yearb. Cogn. Log. Commun. 2, 151–170 (2007)Google Scholar
  23. Petersen, W., Osswald, T.: A formal interpretation of frame composition. In: Proceedings of the Second Conference on Concept Types and Frames, Düsseldorf (2009, to appear)Google Scholar
  24. Ramchand, G.: Time and the event: the semantics of Russian prefixes. Nordlyd 32(2) (2004)Google Scholar
  25. Romanova, E.: Constructing Perfectivity in Russian. Ph.D. thesis, University of Tromsø (2006)Google Scholar
  26. Scontras, G., Tessler, M.H.: Probabilistic language understanding: an introduction to the Rational Speech Act framework (2017). Accessed 12 Oct 2018
  27. Součková, K.: Measure prefixes in Czech: Cumulative na- and delimitative po-. Master’s thesis, University of Tromsø (2004)Google Scholar
  28. Svenonius, P.: Slavic prefixes and morphology. An introduction to the Nordlyd volume. Nordlyd 32(2), 177–204 (2004a)Google Scholar
  29. Svenonius, P.: Slavic prefixes inside and outside VP. Nordlyd 32(2), 205–253 (2004b)Google Scholar
  30. Tatevosov, S.: Intermediate prefixes in Russian. In: Proceedings of the Annual Workshop on Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics, vol. 16 (2007)Google Scholar
  31. Ušakov, D.N. (ed.): Tolkovyj slovar’ russkogo jazyka. [Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language]. Izdatel’stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, Moscow (1935–1940)Google Scholar
  32. van Deemter, K.: Utility and language generation: the case of vagueness. J. Philos. Log. 38(6), 607 (2009)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Švedova, N.J.: Russkaja Grammatika, vol. 1. Nauka, Moscow (1982)Google Scholar
  34. Zinova, Y.: Russian verbal prefixation. Ph.D. thesis, Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf (2017)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Heinrich Heine University of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

Personalised recommendations