Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: April 3, 2023, 6:04 a.m. Humanist 36.507 - numbers for words: puns & polysemy?

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 507.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2023-04-03 01:04:57+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.506: numbers for words

re: different meanings

That got me wondering about handling puns - which often are intentionally


P.S. It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take
things literally.

On Sat, Apr 1, 2023 at 4:39 AM Humanist <> wrote:

>               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 506.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                       Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: 2023-03-31 15:21:40+00:00
>         From: James Rovira <>
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.504: numbers for words
> Many, many thanks to Michael's and Maroussia's informative responses to my
> questions about representing polysemy computationally.
> It sounds like, in all instances, these different models can at best
> identify different meanings of the same word in different texts, or even
> within the same text in different sentences, but I don't see how it's
> possible to register different meanings of the same individual word in the
> same sentence, or in other words, different meanings of the word in play at
> the same time (would this be what Michael meant by Dante's sense?). My
> references to Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, and Dante could be a bit
> misleading because they're all working with a specific and very limited
> hermeneutic tradition, but exploiting different meanings of the same word
> in a single use is a common practice in poetry, fiction, and other literary
> works, while of course that practice is undesirable in scientific
> literature.
> I've always suspected these limitations were in play and wondered what it
> would take to, say, use the OED (Miriam Webster was just close at hand :))
> as a set of numbered keys attached to each word identifying a range of
> possible meanings (so "father" might have a 1a 1b 1c 1d 2a 2b 2c 2d etc.
> attached to it) and then see if the programs could be trained to pick up
> multiple meanings of a single use from an expanded context? Ideally of
> course we would start with the full OED and then be able to expand our
> keys. I think I'm asking for a bit much as this process often involves
> interpretive work which is sometimes creative and often requires the
> exercise of judgment. We could of course code a few texts this way by hand
> and then see if they could train the program to identify patterns on its
> own, but then we would be pre-interpreting the text in a senese. It'd get
> really involved with poetry, as the program would need to identify end
> words and similarly sounding words across different lines as context, not
> just words appearing before and after another word.
> Jim R

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