WordNet Exercise, Level I


Other terminological and lexical resources tutorials


Not all lexical resources take the form of dictionaries: some take forms that are structured to make them usable in different ways. One of the largest, most well-known lexical databases is WordNet, a lexical resource in English designed to make extensive lexical information usable for computers, but also useful for humans who are interested in the relationships between lexical units and their meanings.



I. Introduction


WordNet is a lexical database of English which groups lexical units (verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs) according to their semantic and lexical relations. It can help a user to navigate the lexical database through these relations, and to look up lexical units and their meanings. It is developed by the Cognitive Science Laboratory at Princeton University.


WordNet is freely accessible, either online or in a free downloadable version available on the project Web site. To learn more about WordNet, see the information here: http://wordnet.princeton.edu.


WordNet was developed in English and is most complete and only freely available in this language. However, teams in several countries have begun to develop versions in their respective languages as part of the EuroWordNet project (http://www.illc.uva.nl/EuroWordNet/).  


II. Getting ready

  1. Open the browser of your choice (e.g. Mozilla Firefox).
  2. Type the URL of the online version of WordNet into the address bar, or click on the link: http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn.


III. Looking up lexical units in the database 

  1. Search for the noun valve.
    1. Type valve in the Word to search for field.
    2. Click the Search WordNet button.

Several entries matching this form  — but that correspond to different meanings (different acceptions) of the lexical unit — are displayed. Meanings in WordNet are grouped into what are called synsets: groups of lexical units that all share a very similar meaning (synonyms or near-synonyms).


The letters that appear in blue to the left-hand side of the lexical units describe the kind of relationships described in WordNet. These may be at the level of the synset (S) or of the word (W), that is, not only a meaning (which can correspond to multiple synonyms or near-synonyms), but also a form. The red letters indicate the grammatical categories the units belong to: nouns (n), verbs (v), adjectives (adj), and adverbs (adv).


Clicking on an S link (which corresponds to the command Show Synset (semantic) relations) will display the lexical units that have a semantic relation with the sense you chose. Clicking on a W link (which corresponds to the command Show Word (lexical) relations), will display the lexical units that are related to the unit you chose. To the right-hand side of these units, WordNet also offers a short description of the meanings to help you to distinguish quickly between the acceptions listed. 

  1. Click on the S link next to one of the listed results to display the semantic relations defined for that entry, and take a few moments to look at some of them. For example, what is listed as a direct hyponym or full hyponym? Do you think that this information could be useful for a translator or reviser? Among the listed semantic relations, are there any that you aren't familiar with, or that surprise you? (See Note 1.)
  2. Do a new search for the character string light.
    1. Type light in the Word to search for field.
    2. Click the Search WordNet button.
  3. Browse through the results, which list light as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb. Taking a quick look at the descriptions of light's various meanings, is it easy to tell the difference between the acceptions? For example, between the first two acceptions listed? Click on the S link for these two entries, and then on the hypernym relation for each of them. Do you find the difference easier to understand now?  (See Note 2.)
  4. Click on the noun  entry that is labeled lightlightness, and then on the  derivationally related form link. What do you find to the left-hand side of the unit? Also note how WordNet indicates which unit is the base of the lexical relation listed, using square brackets. 
  5. Go next to the first of the entries in the Verb category, and click on the S link.
    1. Among the various semantic relations that are displayed is a new option: sentence frame. Click on this option. How do you think this information could be useful?
    2. Click on the second of the Verb entries, and compare what it lists as the sentence frame. What conclusions can you draw about how this verb is used?
  6. Move on to the Adjective category of results for light.
    1. Click on the S link for the first entry. Two new relations are displayed: a semantic relation attribute, and a lexical relation, antonym. First click on the antonym link. Does the information in parentheses and square brackets help you to better understand how this unit is used? Now click on the attribute link. Is this information useful? If the context of use was not still clear, how might you go about making your search more precise? 
    2. Click on the S link for the fifth entry (psychologically light) and then on the similar to link. Is this information useful? How? (See Note 3.)
  7. Do a new search for the string sport and browse through the results.
    1. Type sport in the Word to search for field.
    2. Click the Search WordNet button.
    3. In the third entry for the Noun category (Maine colloquial), take a quick look at the entry for summercater. In your opinion, what relationship exists between sport and summercater? How can you find out?
    4. In the Verb category, click on the S link for the first entry, then on the sentence frame link. The structure in which this verb appears is displayed. Do the same with the second entry. In your opinion, are any other structures possible? If you wish, you can compare the results with those of another dictionary such as the Oxford Online Dictionary (http://dictionary.oed.com). What conclusions do you draw? (See Note 4.)
  8. WordNet also lists synonyms (and near-synonyms) to the right-hand side of the lexical units. Click on the synonyms to search for occurrences of these strings. How do you think this kind of search could help you to better understand the lexical units you are searching for, and to resolve challenges in writing and translating?


IV. Navigating the database through the network of semantic and lexical relations

  1. Search for the adverb abundantly.
    1. Type abundantly in the Word to search for field.
    2.  Click the Search WordNet button.
  2. Navigate through the database using the semantic and lexical relations defined for entries.
    1. Click on the S link next to the first listed result to display the semantic relations defined for the entry.
    2. Click on the pertainym link to display the pertainyms of the adverb – i.e. lexical units that the adverb "pertains to". You will note that abundantly is derived from the first adjective listed, abundant. The same is true of copiously, another member of the synset, and the adjective copious that is listed.
    3. Click on the W link next to one of the pertainyms to display the lexical relations defined for it.
    4. Click on th antonym link to display the antonym of the pertainym.
    5. Click on the synset link and then the S link to display the semantic relationships defined for the pertainym. For example, if you click on the semantic relation similar to, meanings similar to that of abundant will be displayed. Do you think this information could be useful? How, and why?  (See Note 5.)
  3. Do a search for the verb cloud.
    1. Type cloud in the Word to search for field.
    2. Click the Search WordNet button.
  4. Browse the database, exploring the semantic and lexical relations it describes.
    1.  In the Verb category, click on the S link next to the first result to view the semantic relations fo this sense. 
    2.  Click on the  phrasal verb link to display the phrasal verbs that contain the string cloud. You will notice two lexical relations labeled with a W at the left-hand side: cloud over and cloud up.
    3. Click on cloud up to display the entry for this unit, and then on the S link to display the semantic relations for cloud up. Browse the results obtained by clicking on direct hypernym, inherited hypernym and sister term, respectively. What do you learn?
  5. If you wish, you can continue to explore the various semantic relations described in WordNet. For example:
    1. Do a search for change as a verb, and click on the S link of the first entry to see some less typical relations, such as verb group or full troponym.  (Note that if you click on the troponym link, the list is very long and youw ill need to scroll up to return to your search results for the list of verbs. Look at the results and try to guess what a troponym might be; then, look up troponym in the WordNet glossary, to see its definition. Were you correct?
    2. So a search for a multi-word lexical unit such as eat up, fill up or fill in,to learn about their semantic and lexical relations and the differences between them. 

Or, if you would like to explore a bit, observe the results found by seaching for pip and clicking on the S links for various entries (for example, in the last in the list of verbs, click on the S link and then on the sentence frame link to see how pip is used in this case.)  




























NOTE 1: You will find the explanations of the terms indicating the nature of the relation (e.g. hyponym, hypernym, holonym, etc.), and of other terms used in WordNet under the Glossary link at the top of the page or at http://wordnet.princeton.edu/
wordnet/man/wngloss.7WN.html. This glossary is part of the WordNet documentation provided on the site.





NOTE 2: When entries are long, as they are here. you can minimize them again once you are done reading by clicking once more on the relation name.  









NOTE 3: You may use the Display Options drop-down menu to change the way entries are displayed, by choosing the action you want to take to modify the display – to hide or show information – and clicking the Change button. 








NOTE 4: You can learn more about the  Oxford English Dictionary, among others, in the Monolingual Electronic Dictionary Exercises.




















NOTE 5: You can change how the results are displayed, showing or hiding different types of information, using the Display Options drop-down menu, choosing the option you wish and then clicking the Change button.  



V. Questions for reflection


  • As you did these exercises, what did you notice about how WordNet works?
  • What could WordNet help you to do? In what kind of situation?
  • What criteria can be used to evaluate lexical databases?
  • How does WordNet compare to others in the same class?
  • What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using this tool to look up lexical units and/or navigate through a lexical database with the help of lexical and semantic networks? Compared to a manual approach? Compared to using another tool?


Tutorial developed by Joanne Desroches and Baris Bilgen. (2009-07)