Empirical Studies of Word Sense Divergences across Language Varieties

Workshop at the Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) 2020
Hamburg, Germany
March 4-6, 2020







Workshop description:

Words change their senses not only over time but also across communities, domains, dialects, registers, and other language varieties (Wieling & Nerbonne, 2015; Wiese & Pohle, 2016; Del Tredici & Fernandez, 2017; Ferrari et al., 2017; Hovy & Purschke, 2018; Schlechtweg et al., 2019; i.a.).

An example for a diachronic sense divergence is the German noun Vorwort, which was mainly used in the meaning of "preposition" before ca. 1800 (Schlechtweg et al., 2018). Then it rapidly acquired a new meaning "preface", which after 1850 has nearly exclusively been used. An example for a synchronic domain-specific sense divergence is the German noun Schnee (Hätty et al., 2019). In general-language use, Schnee predominantly refers to "snow", while in the cooking domain the predominant meaning is the domain-specific "beaten egg whites". The German verb heben is an example for a dialectal lexical variation (Boberg et al., 2018), as it is used in the meaning "to lift" in standard German, while in the Southern-German dialect Swabian it is used in the meaning "to hold".

The above examples exhibit different predominant word senses with regard to specific language varieties. While each research field on language variety has its own tradition to explore word sense divergences, both from a theoretical and from an empirical perspective, this workshop aims to bring together interdisciplinary studies on lexical semantic divergences across time, domains, registers, and further language varieties.

We invite research contributions across languages and across research disciplines to provide and compare resources, corpus-based empirical evidence and computational models for divergences in word meanings across language varieties. Relevant aspects include (but are not restricted to)

  • investigations on word sense definition and discrimination;
  • corpus-based examples and discussions of lexical sense divergences;
  • frequency distributions of word senses across corpora for language varieties;
  • computational models to determine and measure lexical semantic change and divergence;
  • relevance of word sense divergences for theories and applications in different fields.

Workshop organisers:

Dominik Schlechtweg,
Institut für Maschinelle Sprachverarbeitung, Universität Stuttgart

Sabine Schulte im Walde,
Institut für Maschinelle Sprachverarbeitung, Universität Stuttgart

Invited speakers:

Barbara McGillivray,
Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, and The Alan Turing Institute

John Nerbonne,
Humanities Computing, University of Groningen, and Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Freiburg


Charles Boberg, John Nerbonne, and Dominic Watt, eds. (2018). The Handbook of Dialectology. Wiley-Blackwell.

Marco Del Tredici, and Raquel Fernandez (2017). Semantic variation in online communities of practice. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Computational Semantics.

Alessio Ferrari, Beatrice Donati, and Stefania Gnesi (2017). Detecting domain-specific ambiguities: An NLP approach based on wikipedia crawling and word embeddings. In: Proceedings of the IEEE 25th International Requirements Engineering Conference Workshops.

Anna Hätty, Dominik Schlechtweg, and Sabine Schulte im Walde (2019). SURel: A gold standard for incorporating meaning shifts into term extraction. In: Proceedings of the 8th Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics.

Dirk Hovy, and Christoph Purschke (2018). Capturing regional variation with distributed place representations and geographic retrofitting. In: Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing.

Hermann Paul (2002). Deutsches Wörterbuch: Bedeutungsgeschichte und Aufbau unseres Wortschatzes, 10th edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen.

Dominik Schlechtweg, Anna Hätty, Marco Del Tredici, and Sabine Schulte im Walde (2019). A Wind of Change: Detecting and evaluating lexical semantic change across times and domains. In: Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics. To appear.

Dominik Schlechtweg, Sabine Schulte im Walde, and Stefanie Eckmann (2018). Diachronic Usage Relatedness (DURel): A framework for the annotation of lexical semantic change. In: Proceedings of the 2018 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies.

Martijn Wieling, and John Nerbonne (2015). Advances in dialectometry. Annual Review of Linguistics 1:243-264.

Heike Wiese, and Maria Pohle (2016). "Ich geh Kino" oder "... ins Kino"? Gebrauchsrestriktionen nichtkanonischer Lokalangaben. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 35(2):171-216.