Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Similarity - The semantics of linguistic expressions of similarity

This project investigates linguistic expressions of similarity. The paradigm lexical item in German expressing similarity is the demonstrative so. It can be used deictically as well as anaphorically, and in addition plays a central role in German equative constructions – scalar as well as non-scalar ones. Until now, no satisfactory semantic analysis has been suggested for the demonstrative so accounting for its deictic and anaphoric uses and, at the same time, for its role in equative comparison.

In Cognitive Science similarity is a fundamental concept in explaining human perception and classification. It will be shown in the project that similarity is fundamental in the semantics of natural language, too. Combining standard truth-conditional semantics with techniques from Artificial Intelli­gence, an interpretation of the demonstrative so will be given, based on similarity as a basic semantic relation.

Starting from the demonstrative so the analysis will be extended to other expressions of similarity (e.g. ähnlich 'similar', genauso / gleich 'same'), making use of a range of similarity measures. Cross-linguistic differences between German, English, Spanish and Dutch will be investigated looking for language-specific strategies in expressing similarity.

Talks und Papers


  • Similarity Demonstratives - talk in Tübingen / at ZAS, Jan 2013
  • The meaning of the German demonstrative so - talk at the 14th Sklarska Poreba workshop, Feb 2013
  • Similarity Demonstratives - talk at the annual meeting of the Israel Association for Theoretical Linguistics (IATL) 29, October, 2013, Jerusalem
  • Demonstratives: Identity vs. Similarity. DGfS Jahrestagung 2014, Marburg. (handout)
  • Interpreting Similarity (with Helmar Gust) Concepts, Types and Frames (CTF’14), Düsseldorf, August 2014 (slides)
  • Features of ad‐hoc kinds created by similarity. Institut für Deutsche Sprache und Literatur, Universität Köln, Nov. 2014 (slides)


  • Making use of similarity in referential semantics (with Helmar Gust). In H. Christiansen, I. Stojanovic, G. Papadopoulos (eds.) 9th Conference on Modeling and Using Context, Context 2015, LNCS Springer (draft)
  • Demonstratives of Manner, of Quality and of Degree: A Neglected Subclass. (with Ekkehard König) (to appear) In E. Boef, M. Coniglio, E. Schlachter & T. Veenstra (eds.). Demonstratives: syntax, semantics and typology. Berlin, de Gruyter Mouton (final draft Nov 2015)
  • Expressing similarity: On some differences between adjectives and demonstratives. To appear in Proceedings of IATL 29, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics. final draft, revised, Aug 2014