Semantics
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  • 1. Making Meanings with Words
  • 2. Words have arbitrary meanings that we can express in terms of semantic features. Word meanings are constructed through a variety of relationship, which we refer as the nyms Words have many nonliteral, or figurative, meanings, which are complex and abstract.
  • 3. SEMANTICS  A branch of linguistics concerned with the nature, structure, and the development and changes of the meanings of speech forms, or with contextual meaning.  A study of how we construct and understand the meaning of words and groups of words.
  • 4. Even sentences made up of nonsense words have some kind of meaning Consider this sentence: She yarped that canzos spleeked the batoids.
  • 5. Semantic Deviance Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. A sentence like this is anomalous, which means they deviate from expected meanings.
  • 6. Poetry is often based on deviations from expected meanings as well, as this poem by Shel Silverstein (1981) shows: What Did? What did the carrot say to the wheat? “‟Lettuce‟ rest, I‟m feeling „beet.‟” What did the paper say to the pen? “I feel quite all „write,‟ my friend.” What did the teapot say to the chalk? Nothing, you silly . . . Teapots can‟t talk! (Light in the Attic, p. 16)
  • 7. Formal study of the conventions of word meaning. Lexical Semantics  Is language Natural or conventional? • In Plato‟s Cratylus, Socrates, Cratylus, and Hermogenes argue at length over whether names of things are chosen by individuals, communities, or some higher reality outside human control.
  • 8. Lexical Semantics The connection between a word and its meaning is arbitrary.  Onomatopeic words (onomatopoeia is Greek for name making) which are words that sound like their meanings. Also called echoic words. The pronunciation of onomatopeic words can provide clues to their meanings. Clues to the meaning of the word can also be derived from the morphology of a word and also form it syntactic position.
  • 9. Lexical Semantics Etymological clues to unlock  meanings. • We draw on our knowledge of the origins of words of cognates: words that have common ancestors such as Hund in German and Hound in English. Context: drawn from our experience. • „About to be caught in the act, the burglars defenestrated the jewelry.’
  • 10. Meaning Classifications: Semantic Features  Some aspects of meaning can be represented in terms of opposition expressed by binary features. Semantic features: (+/- human) (+/- animate) (+/- young) (+/- married)
  • 11. Meaning Classifications: Semantic Features  The bachelor is married. The baby drove to town in a Ford pickup. The rock comb its hair.
  • 12. Meaning Relationships: The Nyms  Nyms – meaning relationships among words – antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, etc. Opposite meanings: Antonymy Similar meanings: Synonymy Meaning categories: Hyponymy Related meanings: Polysemy Different meanings: Homonymy
  • 13. Opposite meanings: Antonymy Word that we think of as opposites, though oppositions may be relational, complementary, or gradable.  • Gradable: antonyms are two ends on a scale, and there can be various gradations of each term. Some words can have two diametrically opposed meanings: • Cleave can mean either to adhere closely or to divide.
  • 14. Opposite meanings: Antonymy Antonym types  Gradable Relational Complementary Smart/ stupid Teacher/ student Dead/ alive Often/ rarely Friend/ enemy Before/ after Fat/ thin Question/ answer Permit/ prohibit Most/ least Doctor/ patient Precede/ follow Up/ down Mother/ father Send/ receive Tall/ short Parent/ child Beginning/end Rich/ poor Lawyer/ client Day/ night
  • 15. Similar meanings: Synonymy  Words that are different in form but similar in meaning. • Synonyms are derived form a variety of sources, and we make choices among synonyms for a variety of reasons Synonymy allows for a variety of ways to express ideas, it can be a source of euphemisms. • Euphemisms are used to avoid offending words or to deliberately obscure actual meanings.
  • 16.  Euphemism Physical persuasion - torture Wet work - assassination Urinate – got to the bathroom
  • 17. Synonyms of Anglo-Saxon and Latin/ Greek Origin Anglo-Saxon origin Latin/ Greek Origin Land Try Hard Talk (about) Crazy Ghost Clean Dirt Go See Holy Space heavenly Alight Attempt Difficult Discuss Insane Spirit Sanitary Soil Advance Visualize Sacred Cosmos Celestial
  • 18. Meaning Categories: hyponymy Hyponym  A word whose meaning is included, or entailed, in the meaning of a more general word. Example: Thoroughbred – horse House - building
  • 19. A hyponym can itself have hyponyms as shown in the diagram  bovine Cow elk Guernsey Holstein antelope Hereford deer
  • 20. We use hyponymy in language to make general statements more specific: What are you doing? A book/ a Russian novel/ War and Peace
  • 21. Related Meanings: Polysemy  Words that are polysemous have two or more related meanings (Greek poly “many‟, semy „meanings‟) lip = of a cliff or part of the mouth eye = the eye of the storm foot = -of the mountain, -of the stairs arm = arm of a chair
  • 22. Retronym: another meaning relationship (type of polysemy)  A retronym is a new word, compound word, r phrase created to distinguish an original word from a more recent meaning of a word. acoustic guitar/ electric guitar film camera/ digital camera
  • 23. Meaning Change: Semantic Shift Semantic shifts – how word meanings changeover time. Semantics shifts happen in a variety of ways.  Shifts in connotations – changes in general meanings associated with a word. Hund (O.E) dog Hound (M.E) Particular type of dog This process is called narrowing
  • 24. Narrowing – change in words‟ meanings over time to more specific meanings. Broadening – change in words‟ meanings over time to more general or inclusive  Dogge (O.E) – referred to a particular breed of dog and today refers to domestic canines in general  Decimate (Romans) – used to mean „twig, tendril, or branch‟, but now it means the action of twisting something‟, and anything that has been twisted.
  • 25. Amelioration – a shift to a more positive connotation. Croon (E) – „to sing softly‟, Kronen (Dutch) – „to groan or lament‟. Pejoration – shifting to a more negative connotation Churl (present-day English – „a rude or ill-bred person‟, (M.E – degenerated in meaning, ceorl (O.E) – „peasant, freeman, layman)
  • 26. Different Meanings: Homonymy  Homonyms – words that sound the same but have different meanings (Greek Homeos „same‟, onoma „name‟) Verb bear - „to have children‟ or „to tolerate‟  Homophones - words with the same sounds, but not necessarily share the same spelling sole/soul, gorilla/guerilla, to/too/two  Homographs – have different meanings, the same spelling, but different pronunciations 
  • 27. Shifts in denotation – complete change in word‟s meanings overtime Blush – used to mean „look‟ or „gaze‟, in early (Mod.E – „to redden in the face from shame or modesty)
  • 28. Making New Meanings: Figurative Language Figurative language provides a tool to express a vast range of meaning beyond the primary meanings of words. Metaphor Metaphero (Gk) – „to carry over‟ or „transfer‟ Metaphorical meanings reflect our conceptual structures, how we view the world.
  • 29. Types of Metaphors Dead metaphors – those that are conventionalized in everyday speech that we don‟t even realize they are metaphors. I see your point. I‟ll take a look at your paper for you. He is blind to new ideas. Mixed metaphor – those in which parts of different metaphors are telescoped into one utterance. - comprises parts of different metaphors “Hit the nail on the jackpot” – “hit the nail on the head” and “hit the jackpot” „to achieve a goal of some kind‟
  • 30. Personification – gives human attributes to something that is not human o o o o The gates opened their arms. The projects ate up all my time. The cold knocked me out. The idea died a natural death. Synesthesia – a metaphorical language which one kind sensation is described in terms of another. Color is attributed to sounds, odor to color, sound to odor, etc (sweet smell, loud colors,
  • 31. Metonymy – refers to something by describing it in terms of something with which it is closely associated. The pen is mightier than the sword. Synecdoche – it uses a part of something to refer to the whole thing Car – as wheels or a ride More abstract Give me a hand = help Lend me an ear = your attention Two head are better than one = cooperation
  • 32. Comparing meanings: Simile Simile – differs from metaphor. A comparison of two unlike things and usually involve words like or as She‟s big as a house. We‟re happy as clams. My brain is like a sieve.
  • 33. Idioms – they are collocations of language of words or phrases with nonliteral meaning. Kick the bucket – die
  • 34. Semantics and Pragmatics: Making Meaning with Sentences Sentences have meaning, derived both from their structure and from the context in which they are uttered. Sentence meaning The meaning of a sentence on its own regardless of its context. The literal meaning of a sentence, regardless of context. Have you quit smoking?
  • 35. Utterance Meaning The unspoken or indirect meaning of sentences. The meaning of a sentence in context. How are you doing? (when you meet someone on the street) Are you asking information about someone‟s well-being? Are you simply saying hello in a nonliteral way?
  • 36. Pragmatics The study of meaning of language in context (utterance meaning). Pragmatics overlaps semantics to provide us with a bigger picture of how we construct a meaning out of language.
  • 37. Pragmatics: How Contexts Shapes Meaning The meaning of utterance is bound up with the context in which you hear it. First scenario: You hear an urgent, adult voice utter “A train is coming!” while you were standing on a railroad track not paying much attention to proximity of trains, you would, under typical circumstances, quickly move of the track safety.
  • 38. Second scenario: A child comes up with her mother and, laughing, says, “ A train is coming!” The social context within which a sentence is uttered can affect its meaning.
  • 39. Speech Acts: Saying what you mean and meaning what you say Kinds of Syntactic Structures called sentence types: Interrogatives (questions) Imperatives (commands) Declaratives (statements) Is it raining? Get out! I’d like a sandwich.
  • 40. Each utterance we make carries a communicative force and can be thought of as performing a particular speech act. Direct speech act – when sentence type corresponds to our intention. - utterance whose meaning is the sum of its parts, the literal meaning Is it raining?
  • 41. Have you cleaned your room? Indirect speech act –Its meaning depends on context rather than on sentence type. This is a simple illustration of the complexity of speech acts and of how sentence type does not always correspond to speaker‟s intention.
  • 42. Speech act theory tries to explain more precisely how meaning and action are related to language. - (introduced by John Austin 1962) is concerned with communicative intentions of speakers and how they achieve their communicative goals. - communication is a series of communicative acts that are used systematically to accomplish particular purposes and having a specific force assigned to them.
  • 43. Austin offers three basic kinds of acts that are simultaneously performed by an utterance. Locutionary act: An utterance with particular sense and reference (the sum of its part) Illocutionary act: The act (defined by social convention) that is performed by making the utterance: a statement, offer, promise,
  • 44. Perlocutionary act: The (not necessarily intentional) effects on the audience, whether intended or unintended, brought about by the utterance “Jo, would you like to read your poem first?”
  • 45. Conversational Rules Conversational rules for how to communicate spoken and unspoken messages. Paul Grice (1975, 1989) proposed the following maxims of conversation, which continue to be an accurate description of the shared rules that speakers use in interactions.
  • 46. Grice’s Maxim of Conversation Maxim of Quantity Make your contribution to the conversation as informative as necessary. Do not make your contribution to the conversation more informative than necessary. Maxim of Quality Do not say what you believe to be false. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
  • 47. Maxim of Relevance Say only things that are relevant. Maxim of Manner Avoid obscurity of expression. Avoid ambiguity. Be brief (avoid unnecessary wordiness). Be orderly.
  • 48. Grice’s Cooperative Principle An assumption that in conversation speakers will make a sincere effort to collaboratively exchange information Speaker meaning – meaning beyond the words alone, which the speaker assumes the hearer can interpret based on communicative context
  • 49. Manipulating Maxim – speakers can violate maxims because of maxim clash, wherein if one maxim is to be maintained, another must be violated. Utterances in which maxims are followed, violated, and then flouted: 1. Speaker A: Have you been to a baseball game lately? Speaker B: No, but I‟m going to go to a game this weekend. (Maxims are followed)
  • 50. 2. Speaker A: When is your next class? Speaker B: Sometime this afternoon. (maxim clash: quality, quantity) 3. Speaker A: So, do you think Maria will make it to the wedding? Speaker B: Well, she told me she was taking off work that day. (cooperative principle)
  • 51. 4. Speaker A: So, do you think Maria is having a baby? Speaker B: I have a train to catch. [flouting several maxims: (maxim of relevance, quantity, quality)] *cooperative principle – there are other interpretation on Speaker B‟s statement
  • 52. Understanding and using a language involves a complex interplay of social and linguistic factors, including our cultural expectations, attitudes about power and solidarity, social conventions, and much more. Learning to use language may be as complex a process as acquiring the language itself, and both are essential components of our linguistic knowledge.
  • 53. Grice’s Maxim of Conversation A. Make up a (plausible) conversational exchange in which Grice‟s maxims are followed. Explain briefly how each maxim is satisfied. B. Come up with a (plausible) conversation in which at least one of Grice‟s maxim is violated. Explain why the violation might take place and what influences the speakers and hearers could use to make sense of the utterances. (Remember that a violation doesn‟t necessarily mean that the conversation breaks down; it is often the result of maxim clash, wherein a maxim is violated but the cooperative principle maintained. C. Now, come up with an example of a conversational exchange in which at least one of Grice‟s maxims is flouted. Does the conversation break down or not? Explain briefly.