Week 3

                        Sense Relations I: Synonymy & Hyponymy                          



Is there an ‘odd man out’ in each of these sets? What is it? What makes it ‘odd’?

(a)        boot     shoe        sock              sandal              slipper

(b)       cat       moon      spoon           owl                  boat

(c)        whale  turtle       stingray        barracuda        shark

(d)       lemon  banana    raspberry      pear                 plum

(e)        James  John       Robin           Andrew           Marvin


a. The grass is green.

b. The grass is emerald.

In what way do these two sentences have the same meaning?

N.B. Sense relations (hyponymy, synonymy, etc. are relations between predicates and not words. Words are ambiguous; predicates are not.


Write down a sentence for each meaning of the word box

Box1    _________________________________________________________________

Box2    _________________________________________________________________

Box3    _________________________________________________________________


I        HYPONYMY                 inclusion;    ‘X is a type of/ kind of Y’

(4) (i) tulip, daffodil, chrysanthemum, rhododendron                        [hyponyms]

                                    flower                          [superordinate]

(5) cousin                    nephew            niece    uncle   aunt     brother-in-law (?)


Hyponymy = one-way relationship (asymmetrical)

                        = one-way entailment {}

6. Elephants, tigers and chimpanzees are mammals.

7. Mammals are elephants, tigers and chimpanzees.


8.         (a) Stab pain in the back!

            (b) Kick pain in the teeth!

            (c) Hit pain head on!

            [(d) Knock pain on the head!]

These were a series of ad campaign slogans for ‘Nurofen’ painkillers.

  • What superordinate term could you supply here?

II.      SYNONYMY        sameness/similarity of meaning: ‘X is (like) Y’

Synonymy can be seen as a special case of hyponomy; i.e. SYMMETRICAL HYPONOMY

(i)        = sameness of meaning.

(ii)       = two-way (symmetrical) entailment            {”}

If x is a hyponym of y, and y is a hyponym of x, then x and y are synonymous.

(iii)      = mutual entailment

9.         puppy : baby dog

10:       kid : child

11. (a) Jules resembles Jim.            (b) Jim resembles Jules.

12. (a) Julian is a carpenter.          (b) Julian is a joiner.

13. (a) John kicked Bill on purpose.           (b) John kicked Bill deliberately.

14. (a) Joe Kennedy was Jack Kennedy’s father. (b) Jack Kennedy was Joe Kennedy’s son.

15. (a) There is a bull in that field. (b) There is a male adult bovine animal in that field.


Are these sentences synonymous? i.e. Are they equally true under all conditions (states of affairs)?

16. (a) John Smith is a bachelor.        (b) John Smith is not married.            Yes/No

17. (a) John Smith is unmarried.        (b) John Smith is divorced.                 Yes/No

Synonymy:- partial, near- and absolute     Lyons:  (1995: 60-5)

(a) absolute synonymy: = “fully, totally and completely synonymous”

“Two (or more) expressions are absolutely synonymous if, and only if, they satisfy the following three conditions:

(i) all their meanings are identical; = “fully synonymous”

(ii) they are synonymous in all contexts; = “totally synonymous”

(iii) they are semantically equivalent (i.e. their meaning or meanings are identical) on all dimensions of meaning, descriptive and non-descriptive.”

                                                                        “completely synonymous”

(Lyons 1995: 61)

(b) near-synonymy

18. mist : fog;

19. brook : stream : beck

20. dive: plunge                      (examples from Lyons 1995: 60)

(c) partial synonymy = “non-absolute” (Lyons)

(a) toilet          lavatory           WC      (public) conveniences

(b) loo             bog

(c) powder room         the smallest room

21. Excuse me, where’s the _______________ ?

22.Please leave the _____________ in the state in which you found it.

23.Don’t stick your head down______________________________

24.       (a) I must thank you for the flowers you sent.

            (b) I have to thank you for the flowers you sent.

III     MERONYMY       a part/whole relationship; ‘An X is a part of a Y’

                                                                        ‘A Y has an X / Xs’

Look at the ‘CAR’ example in Saeed (#3.47 on p. 70).

25.       (a) A car has an engine/wheels/doors/windows.

(b) Fingers /a palm / knuckles are parts of a hand.

26.                               AIRPLANE

WINGS           FUSELAGE                ENGINES                   TAILPLANE

                        /           /           \           \                      


  • (a) An airplane has a fuselage.

(b) A fuselage has passenger seats.

(c) An airplane has passenger seats.

Meronymy v. hyponymy

  • (a) An eye is part of the face. / Faces have eyes.

(b) The retina is part of the eye. / The eye has a retina.

(c) * A retina is part of the face. / * The face has a retina.

Contrast with this example of hyponymy.

  • (a) Chess is a game.

(b) A game is a leisure activity.

\ (c) Chess is a leisure activity.



(a) Complete these:

30. The parts of a book include __________________________________________


31. A house has ______________________________________________________


(b) Note which of the meronyms you have listed are (I) necessary; (ii) usual; (iii) optional.


TASK 1 (Hyponymy)

Write out the relationship (hyponym; superordinate) in the following:

(iii)      animal                         :           dog                             

________________________            ____________________________

(iv)      crimson                       :           red

________________________            _____________________________

(v)       get                               :           buy

________________________            ______________________________

TASK 2 (Synonymy)

Is ‘absolute synonymy’ (Lyons) actually realized? (N.B. It is logically possible)

(a)        big       large    great

Think of as many collocations with these three terms which will exclude at least one of the terms

Now, do the same with: (b)    end / finish      (c) start / begin           (d) almost / nearly

TASK 3 (Meronymy)

  • Which of these lexical items are meronyms of ‘a university’?
  • Are the meronyms necessary or optional?

If Yes, Necessary or Optional?

  1. A medical school                          Y / N
  2. a museum                                      Y / N
  3. faculties                                        Y / N
  4. playing fields                                Y / N
  5. lecture theatres                              Y / N
  6. staircases                                       Y / N
  7. computer labs                               Y / N

(b) Add a couple of necessary and optional meronyms to this