The Semantic and Stylistic Differentiation of Synonyms and Near-Synonyms

Chrysanne DiMarco, Graeme Hirst and Manfred Stede

If we want to describe the action of someone who is looking out a window for an extended time, how do we choose between the words "gazing", "staring", and "peering"? What exactly is the difference between an "argument", a "dispute", and a "row"? In this paper, we describe our research in progress on the problem of lexical choice and the representations of world knowledge and of lexical structure and meaning that the task requires. In particular, we wish to deal with nuances and subtleties of denotation and connotation---shades of meaning and of style---such as those illustrated by the examples above. We are studying the task in two related contexts: machine translation, and the generation of multilingual text from a single representation of content.

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