Dictionary MeaningA. Ait Taleb, Y. Taia, Z. JamaatiSemantics and Pragmatics CourseProf. Chouaibi
Outline. Introduction.1. The definition and the history of dictionary.2. Meaning and the dictionary.A-A typical dictionaryB- Semantics & lexicography.3. Approaches to definition4. Types of dictionaries5. Properties of dictionaries6. Sense relations affecting word meaning.7. Knowledge of meaning (dictionary) Vs . Factual Knowledge(encyclopedia).8. . Problems of distinction b/w Dictionary and encyclopedia9. Clues to differentiate b/w a dictionary and encyclopedia
• Among the kinds of questions semanticists askare the following:• What are meanings ? definitions? Ideas in our heads? Sets of objects in the world?• Can all meanings be precisely defined?People may feel that the dictionary definition of a wordis the best representation of a words meaning, but thereality is that dictionaries model usage.This presentation considers the role of DICTIONARYdefinition in the description of meaning.
:A. Definition:• The word ‘Dictionary’ is derived from themedieval Latin word ‘Dictionarium’. Itoriginated from the term ‘dictio’ meaning ‘aword’ or a ‘phrase’. Thus, a dictionary dealswith the words.
• Different sorts of ‘proto-lexicographical’ documents(glossaries, word lists,…)existed in Antiquity and theMiddle Ages. They were used to keep a record ofwords which had fallen out of use in everydaylanguage, but which continued to be used inspecialized speech genres like poetry.• Bilingual dictionaries (They contain equivalents ortranslation) have been developed before themonolingual ones.• Monolingual dictionaries (They contain definitions)did not exist in the West until about the sixteenthcentury(Matoré 1968. Cf. Riemer,2010:49).
:• The concept of word’s meaning is closely related to theconcept of definition.• Definitions have been particularly important forconceptual theories of meaning• Example:If you know the concept ‘horse’, you will be able to usethe word ‘horse’ in a way that accords with or fits itsdefinition.• This means, you will agree with a large number ofpropositions which are based on the definition that the‘horse’ is:“a large, four-footed mammal with hooves and amane”
• Examples:• a. If X is a horse, X is an animal.• b. If X is a horse, it has a mane.• c. If X is a rooster, so X is not a horse.• d. If X is a horse, it is a large four-footedmammal with hooves and a mane.(P:46)
• As a result, an understanding of definition isnecessary for any attempt to develop aconceptual theory of word meaning.• Moreover, when people think of a word’smeaning, they tend to think of something likeits definition in a dictionary.
:• A dictionary is a central part of the description ofany language. A good ordinary householddictionary typically gives (at least) three kinds ofinformation about words: Phonological information about how the word ispronouncedGrammatical (syntactical and morphological)information about its part of speech (e.g. noun,verb) and inflections (e.g. for plural number orpast tense)semantic information about the word’s meaning.
Example:• Green: /gri:n/, adj. of the color of growingfoliagePhonological Grammatical Semantic
• Lexicography/ dictionary writing is ‘a craft, a wayof doing something useful. It is not a theoreticalexercise to increase the sum of human knowledgebut practical work to put together a book thatpeople can understand.’Landau (1984: 121 Cf. Reimer,2010:46)• By contrast, linguistic semantics , in addition to itsconcern with the meanings of words, is atheoretical exercise.• The primary goal of linguistic semantics is thespecification of the stored meaningrepresentation associated with each lexeme inthe mental lexicon.
• mental lexicon: A stock of words andmeanings stored in long-term memory.• When the speaker/writer accesses words, it’sa matter of matching ideas with those storedmeaning representations that are associatedwith stable word forms in the mental lexicon.This process is analogous to consulting adictionary.
• Therefore, the dictionary constructed by asemanticist is supposed to representimportant aspects of the mental knowledgeabout meaning that any typical nativespeaker of the language would have.• Ordinary dictionaries usually fail to cater forall the aspects of this mental knowledge.
1- Word-based/ semiologicalapproach: It starts with a language’sindividual lexemes, and triesto specify the meaning ofeach one.-Example:Start with this list :scare,frighten, terrify, startle,spook, and panic . Then,specify a slightly differentmeaning for each. You access meaningsthrough words( Dictionary)Meaning-based/ Onomasiologicalapproach:• It starts with a particularmeaning, and list the variousforms available in the languagefor its expression.- Example:start with a general concept,FRIGHTEN, and list all of thoseverbs ( scare, terrify,..)as itspossible realizations. You get access to differentwords through a particularconcept (A thesaurus)(Reimer,2010:50)
Semasiological and onomasiological analysisare in no way exclusive:• the semasiological approach emphasizesdifferences between lexemes, theonomasiological one similarities.• Both are necessary to a full description of theprocesses underlying communication.
Types of dictionaries• There are two types ofdictionaries:– The ordinarydictionary.– The semanticistdictionary.• The ordinary dictionaryis generally written byordinary dictionarywriters or by linguists,usually under thesupervision of publishinghouses.• The semanticistdictionary is written bysemanticist.
Types of dictionaries• Both writers share the same goals when writingdictionaries; that is to be as comprehensive as possible indefining words.• Difference is styles and approaches to reach their goals
Properties of dictionariesInterconnectedness based on the definitions of the Consise Oxford Dictionary(6th edition, 1976).marryWife JoinHusband UniteMarriage
Properties of dictionaries• Interconnectedness:• In all dictionaries, definitions are in most of the timeinterconnected. It is a feature that is desirable and can’tbe avoidable.• It is more relied on by semanticists as they aim torepresent comprehensively the knowledge a nativespeaker has about all sense relations between predicates.• Semanticists are interested more in word sense relations;(hyponymy, antonymy, polysemy, etc.)
Properties of dictionaries• Circularity:• Semanticist leave some terms undefined or ambiguouscompared to ordinary dictionary writers, who try toexhaust definition of a term as much as possible.Semantic primes
Properties of dictionaries• Semantic Primes (Def.):‘metalanguage which incorporates elements of the objectlanguage can also be said to ‘defer full payment’. Only ametalanguage which is completely independent of the objectlanguage is in a position to offer a complete, non-circularexplanation in which every definiendum receives its ownsemantic analysis independently of the analysis of the others.Without such a metalanguage, there will always be a residue ofunexplained terms which escape definition.’
Properties of dictionaries• They are actually words that cannot be understood withsimple words and they are difficult to define withoutresorting to other ambiguous terms.• The equivalent of Semantic primes in ordinary dictionariesare the use of technique or abstruse terms in definition, or insome cases define the words in another unfamiliar languageto• e.g.:Male: Of the sex that can beget offspring byperforming the fertilizing functions; (of plants)whose flowers contain only fecundating organs ofmen or male animals or plants.
Properties of dictionaries• The framework of logic:• Another important property that semanticists use indictionaries to describe the meaning.• Note that those technical terms are not used by ordinarydictionaries to mislead in understanding of a term, butrather to describe the meaning.• Both semanticists and ordinary dictionary writers aim todescribe the sense relation between predicates as theyunderstand them, in their own everyday life. (synonymy,antonymy, etc.)
Properties of dictionaries• Precision:• The main and essential property of any dictionary isPrecision.• Good ordinary dictionaries achieve high standard ofprecision. However, in many cases they fail to definesome words with enough exactness.
Properties of dictionaries• The distinction between homonymy and polysemyincrease the precision of a dictionary. However it isdifficult as in most of the time is arbitrary.• The use of vague terms, such as ‘etc.’, ‘more or less’,‘especially’, ‘usually’ affect the preciseness of adictionary.• It is generally argued that the use of vague words in anunavoidable as simply meanings cannot deduced withabsolute preciseness. It is a valid argument.
Sense relations that affect word meanings• Incompatibility: "mutual and binary exclusiveness within thesame superordinate category" (e.g. male Vs. female)• Symmetry: Interchangeability and belong of x to why and viceversa• Hyponymy: "inclusion of meaning" (cat is a hyponym of animal)• Are generally assumed clear by ordinary dictionaries.However Semanticist dictionaries focus more on finding allsense relation between words.• The aim after all is to present language as it is known bynative speakers.
Sense relations that affect word meanings• Answer the following questions about sense relations between wordsand sentences as you understand them:• 1. Is Male compatible with female? Yes / No• 2. Does John is married to Mary entail Mary is married to John?Yes / No• 3. Does the bench is joined to the table entail the table is joined tothe bench? Yes / No• 4. Is man a hyponym of Animal? Yes / No
Knowledge of meaningknowledge of a word’s meaning (dictionaryknowledge), which would be conceived of assomething fairly concise, perhaps like adictionary definition. knowledge of meaning isknowledge of the essential meaning of a wordthat all speakers must possess, and whichdictionaries must accurately represent in orderto allow the meaning to be acquired for the firsttime.
factual (‘Encyclopedic’) knowledgea book, often in many volumes, containingarticles on various topics, often arrangedin alphabetical order, dealing either withthe whole range of human knowledge orwith one particular subject a medicalencyclopedia
ExampleA teacher:or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils (children) andstudents (adults). The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carriedout at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, aperson who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specifiedprofessional qualifications or credentials from a university or college.These professional qualifications may include the study of pedagogy, thescience of teaching. Teachers, like other professionals, may have tocontinue their education after they qualify, a process known as continuingprofessional development. Teachers may use a lesson plan to facilitatestudent learning, providing a course of study which is calledthe curriculum.A teachers role may vary among cultures. Teachers may provide instructionin literacy and numeracy, craftsmanship or vocational training, thearts, religion, civics, community roles, or life skills.A teacher who facilitates education for an individual may also be described asa personal tutor, or, largely historically, a governess.In some countries, formal education can take place through homeschooling. Informal learning may be assisted by a teacher occupying atransient or ongoing role, such as a family member, or by anyone withknowledge or skills in the wider community setting.
Problems with the distinctionbetween Dictionary and encyclopediaAlthough they both cover different things, thethings they do cover are listed alphabeticallyexplained in detail, (generally) cross referencedwith other entries.
As any comparison of dictionaries willreveal, it is very hard to determine whereinformation stops being part of a word’sdictionary meaning and becomes part ofthe encyclopedic knowledge we have ofits denotation.
. Which of the following pieces ofinformation, for example, should beconsidered dictionary information aboutthe meaning of the word cow, and whichas facts about cows which form part of theencyclopaedic knowledge we have aboutthem?Example
•they are mammals•they moo•they eat grass•they are four-legged•they have large eyes•they live in fields and dairies•they sometimes wear cow-bells•they are often farmed for their milk•they have several stomachs•their young are called calvesin English•they incubate Mad Cow Disease for three to five years ifinfected.•they chew their food slowly
Dictionary vs. encyclopediacriterion Dictionary encyclopediaobject linguistic properties of linguisticunits represented by lemmasproperties of objectsdesignated by lemmasdescribes use of linguistic units world knowledgelemmas any word class only nounsClues to differentiate betweenDictionaries and Encyclopedia
Dictionaries only define words whileencyclopedias give facts and history onpeople, places, and things. Sometimes thearticles in encyclopedias can be very long,the definitions of words in the dictionaryare usually brief. Dictionaries have verbs,adjectives, pronouns etc... whileencyclopedias only have nouns in them.
Encyclopedic dictionarya type of reference work arranged A-to-Z with indepth articles, esp. about propernouns; a reference workwhich shares features of a general dictionary andencyclopedia.Example:The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia (1889-91) is a goodexample of an encyclopedic dictionary.
References• Hurford, J.R and Heasly, B and Smith, M.B. (2007).Semantics A Coursebook. UK: Cambridge University Press.• Riemer, N. (2010). Introducing Semantics. UK: CambridgeUniversity Press.• Site retirieved on 14 May 2013:http://www.ling.upenn.edu/courses/ling001/semantics.html