Semantics and meanings.


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Semantics and meanings.

  2. 2. Semantics and Meanings Semantics Semantics is the study of the meaning of (words, phrase and sentence) language. We know that language is used to express meanings which can be understood by others. But meanings exist in our minds and we can express what is in our minds through the spoken and written forms of language (gestures and actions). The sound pattern of the language is studied in the level of phonology and the organization of words and sentences is studied at the level of morphology and syntax. These are organized in such a way that we can convey meaningful message or receive or understand message. How language organized in order to be meaningful? Semantics is that level of linguistic analysis where meaning is analyzed. Meaning Philosophers have puzzled over this question for 2000 years. Their thinking begins from the question of the relationship between words and the objects which words represent. For example we may ask: what is the meaning of the word “cow”? One answer would be that it refers to animal, who has certain properties, that distinguish it from other animals, who are called by other names, where do the names come from and why does the word “cow” mean only that particular animal and none other? Some thinker say that there is no essential connection between the word “cow” and the animal indicated by the word, but we have established this connection by convention. This fact gives rise to the view held by later thinkers that the meaning of a word is not the object it refers to, but the concept of the object that exists in the mind. Moreover, as de Saussure pointed out, the relation between the word (signifier) and the concept (signified) is an arbitrary one, i.e. the word does not resemble the concept.
  3. 3. L.K.Ogden and I.A.Richards made an attempt to define meaning. 1. An intrinsic property of some language 2. Other words related to that word in a dictionary 3. The thing to which the speaker of that word refers 4. The thing to which the speaker of that word should refer 5. The thing to which the speaker of that word believe himself to be referring 6. The thing to which the speaker of that word believe in being referred. Conceptual and associative meaning: When we investigate the meaning of words in a language, we are normally interested in characterizing the conceptual and associative meaning and less concerned with the associative meaning of the word. Conceptual meaning covers those basic, essential components of meaning that are conveyed by the literal use of a word. Associative meaning different people have different associations. Denotative meaning: The logical meaning, which indicates the essential qualities of a concept which distinguish it from other concepts. The concept is a minimal unit of meaning which could be called a Sememe in the way as the unit of sound is called phoneme. Just as the phoneme /b/ may be bilabial + voiced + plosive. Social meaning: It is the meaning that a word possesses by virtue of its use in particular social situation and circumstances. The words domicile, residence, abode, home. Domicile is used in the official context and abode is used in poetic context, residence is in a formal context and home is used in the normal context Thematic meaning: It lies in the manner in which a message is organized for emphasis.
  4. 4. Semantic roles: Instead of thinking of words as a “container” of meaning, we can look at the “roles” they fulfill within the situation described by a sentence. Lexical and grammatical meaning. Lexical or word meaning is the meaning of individual lexical items. These are of two types: the open class lexical items such as noun, verbs, adjectives and adverbs and the close class lexical items preposition, conjunction and determiners. Understanding ambiguity. i. Lexical ambiguity (e.g): I saw him in the bank ii. Grammatical ambiguity (e.g): The parents of the bride and the groom were waiting Sense and reference: The signs refer to the concepts as well as to other concepts. A sign is symbol that indicates a concept. This is the reference, which refers in turn to some object in the real world, called the referent. The relationship between linguistic items and non-linguistic world of experience is a relationship of reference. Concept (Reference) Word (Symbol) Object (Referent)
  5. 5. Sentence and utterance meaning. Sentence is the grammatical unit which contains a logical statement or preposition, utterance is the speaking or writing of a sentence by a user, in a context. I don’t like coffee. It’s cold in here. Entailment and presupposition. One sentence entails another when it includes the meaning of the other sentence. One sentence presupposes another when it implies an earlier meaning which is known.