SemEval 2013 Task 5b: Semantic Compositionality in Context

This page redirects to the evaluation exercise done in the SemEval 2013 Task on Evaluating Phrasal Semantics.

An interesting sub-problem of semantic compositionality is to decide whether a phrase is used in its literal or figurative meaning in a given context. For example “big picture” might be used literally as in

“Click here for a bigger picture”

or figuratively as in

“To solve this problem, you have to look at the bigger picture.”

Another example is “old school” which can also be used literally or figuratively:

“He will go down in history as one of the old school, a true gentlemen.”

“During the 1970's the hall of the old school was converted into the library.”


Being able to detect whether a phrase is used literally or figuratively is e.g. especially important for information retrieval, where figuratively used words should be treated separately to avoid false positives. For example, the example sentence “He will go down in history as one of the old school, a true gentlemen.” should probably not be retrieved for the query “school”. Rather, the insights generated from subtask a could be utilized to retrieve sentences using a similar phrase such as “gentleman-like behaviour”.


Korkontzelos, I., Zesch, T., Zanzotto, F.M., Biemann, C. (2013): SemEval-2013 Task 5: Evaluating Phrasal Semantics. Proceedings of SemEval 2013, Atlanta, GA, USA (pdf)


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