Fabrizio Calzavarini Antonio Lieto

The computational modeling of inferential and referential competence

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between two aspects of lexical competence, i.e. referential and inferential competence. The former accounts for the relationship of words to the world, the latter for the relationship of words among themselves. The aim of the paper is to offer a critical discussion of the kind of formalisms and computational techniques that can be used in Artificial Intelligence to model the two aspects of lexical competence, and of the main difficulties related to the use of these computational techniques. The first conclusion of our discussion is that the distinction between inferential and referential semantics is instantiated in the literature of Artificial Intelligence by the distinction between symbolic and connectionist approaches. The second conclusion of our discussion is that the modelling of lexical competence needs the advent of hybrid models integrating symbolic and connectionist frameworks. Our hypothesis is that ConceptualSpaces, a framework developed by Gärdenfors more than fifteen years ago, can offer a lingua franca that allows to unify and generalize many aspects of the representational approaches mentioned above and to integrate “inferentialµ (= symbolic) and “referentialµ (= connectionist) computational approaches on common ground.


  • lexical competence
  • inferential competence
  • referential competence
  • artificial intelligence
  • symbolic models
  • connectionisms
  • conceptual spaces


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