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1 introduction to the study of language (1)


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1 introduction to the study of language (1)

  1. 1. What is semantics? “In general, the study of the relationship between words and meanings....The field of semantics has three basic concerns: the relations of words to the objects denoted by them, the relations of words to the interpreters of them, and, in symbolic logic, the formal relations of signs to one another (syntax)." (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press: New York. 2009)
  2. 2. What is pragmatics? Pragmatics is concerned with the study of meaning as communicated by a speaker and interpreted by a listener. It has more to do with what people mean than what the words or phrases say. (Yule, 1996)
  3. 3. What do these words mean? Itchy feet
  4. 4. What does this sentence mean? “He has itchy feet” Semantics Pragmatics
  5. 5. Semantics Vs. Pragmatics While semantics is the study of meaning in a language, pragmatics is the study of language from the point of view of language users. Semantic meaning focuses on the meaning of words, phrases, clauses, and speech acts and pragmatic meaning on how speakers and addressees perceive language use. Semantics is concerned with meaning regardless of context while pragmatics is concerned with communication within a specific context. Distinguishing Pragmatics from Semantics:
  6. 6. Semantic or pragmatic meaning?  Joe hasn’t met my parents  She hasn’t taken a shower.  He was so tired he could sleep for days.
  7. 7.
  8. 8. “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” This sentence was presented by Chompsky as an example of a series of words strung together randomly. Explain it based on your understanding about syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
  9. 9. Meaning What do you do when you don’t know the meaning of a word? How do you help your students when they don’t know the meaning of a word?
  10. 10. The Conversation between Humpty Dumpty and Alice (Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Caroll)
  11. 11. 1 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. 2 'Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!‘
  12. 12. "I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't —till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' " "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master that's all." Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them —particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"
  13. 13. What is meaning? How do we attribute meaning to words or sentences?
  14. 14. The meaning of “meaning”  Michelle means trouble  The principal means what he says about discipline  Romeo and Juliet were meant for each other  This weather will mean long traffic jams  Money means nothing for me  Those dark clouds mean rain  She didn’t mean to hurt you  What is the meaning of life?
  15. 15. The meaning of “meaning”  Point, purpose  To foretell, indicates  Denote, connote, signify, represent  To produce, cause  Intend  To have the importance of  To say or to do in all seriousness  To destine or design for a certain person or purpose.
  16. 16. How do we attribute meaning to words?  Dictionary definitions  Mental images  Meaning and reference  Meaning and true  Meaning and language use
  17. 17. Conclusions Although there is a lot to be said about meaning, a few things should be clear:
  18. 18. 1. Meaning (like any other aspect of language) is provided by a community of native speakers, not by some special authority like a dictionary or grammar book.
  19. 19. 2. The meaning of an expression is not just a definition composed of more words in the same language, since the meaning system of any language would form a vicious circle.
  20. 20. 3. The meaning of an expression is not just a mental image, since mental images seem to vary from person to person more than meaning does, since mental images tend to be only of typical or ideal examples of the things they symbolize, and since not all words have corresponding mental images.
  21. 21. 4. The meaning of a word involves more than just the actual thing the word refers to, since not all expressions have real-world referents, and substituting expressions with identical referents for each other in a sentence can change the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
  22. 22. 5. Knowing the meaning of a sentence involves knowing the conditions under which it would be true, so explaining the meaning of a sentence can be done in part by explaining its truth conditions.
  23. 23. 6. Knowing the meaning of an utterance also involves knowing how to use it, so conditions on language use also form an important aspect of meaning.
  24. 24. Meaning is a complex phenomenon involving relationships between a language and the minds of its speakers, between a language and the world, and between a language and the practical uses to which it is put.
  25. 25. Homework  File 72: What types of meaning relationships are presented in the text? Explain them in your own words and give an example for each(not an example from the reading).  File 73: Based on the theory of semantic composition, explain the meaning in the following sentences: - He was eating a hamburger. - He was eating a chair. - He was painting a chair.