Understanding the figurative language of tropes in natural language processing using a brain-based organization for ontologies
Language communication is the successful interpretation of the speaker’s communicative intent. When Shakespeare writes, we see the intent in Romeo’s words, but it is lost again when we attempt to express it using a computer model for language; a model with an ability to handle tropes (metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony) is needed. The goal of this model is to correctly interpret the nouns that occur within these tropes. Early computer language models had not worked well when they encountered tropes, yet the brain handled them easily. These early models concentrated on the language functions of the left temporal lobes of the brain; perhaps the models worked poorly because they had limited themselves to modelling only the parts of the brain that handled propositional language. The designs of these models were also influenced by the assumption that the human brain understood language using a grammar-based Language Acquisition Device. In examining human language acquisition however, grammar does not even show up until the third year. In addition to the common taxonomic and mereologic structures that occur in most language models, the current model also recreates the brain’s thematic, perceptual and functional categorizations. Words no longer occur at a single location: words defined by their perceptual features, whether nouns or adjectives, occur within perceptual categorizations, and those defined by functional features, whether nouns or verbs, occur within functional categorizations. Tenor-vehicle connections then expand these perceptual and functional categories with metaphor. Words occurring within thematic categories are used to understand metonymy; and words occurring in the taxonomic and mereologic structures are used to understand synecdoche. Classifiers, such as the Japanese hon, indicate membership in a category. Marked perceptual and functional classifiers in ASL, Japanese and Swahili made it easier to identify the occurrences of unmarked perceptual and functional categories in English. Likewise, the mythos-based categories in Dyirbal, French and German made the remnants of mythosbased categories still occurring in English understandable.