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Semantics Carmen Bonner Johnson Amy Haddad.

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1 Semantics Carmen Bonner Johnson Amy Haddad

2 Summary The essential question seems to be “What do you know about meaning when you know a language?” How and why does language give meaning or meaning make sense? “The study of the linguistic meaning of morphemes, words, phrases and sentences is called semantics. Subfields of semantics are lexical semantics, which is concerned with the meanings of words, and the meaning of relationships among words; and phrasal or sentential semantic, which is concerned with the meaning of syntactic units larger than the word. The study of how context affects meaning – for example, how the sentence Its cold in here comes to be interpreted as “close the windows” in certain situations – is called pragmatics”. (p. 180) Semantic rules build the meaning of the sentence from its words and how words combine syntactically. This is called truth-conditional semantics because it takes speaker’s knowledge of truth conditions as basic. It is also called compositional semantics because it calculates the truth value of a sentence by composing, or putting together, the meaning of smaller units”. (p. 180) “Knowing the meaning of a sentence, then means knowing under what circumstances it would be true or false according to your knowledge of the world, namely its truth condition”. (p. 181)

3 Ambiguity: Words and phrases with more than one meaning. (p. 182). “Our knowledge of lexical and structural ambiguities reveals that the meaning of a linguistic expression is built both on the words it contains and its syntactic structure. The notion that the meaning of an expression is composed of the meanings of its parts and how they are combined structurally is referred to as the principal of compositionality”. (p. 183) Reading Rockets- Semantic Gradients (add pictures to ESOL learners to help language and understanding)

4 Semantic Rule 1 Rule 1 states that a sentence composed of a subject NP and a predicate VP is true if the subject NP refers to an individual who is among the members of the set that constitute the meaning of the VP. This rule is entirely general. It does not refer to any particular sentence, individuals or verbs.” (p. 185) When Compositionality Goes Awry: “The meaning of an expression is not always obvious, even to a native speaker of the language. Meanings may be obscured in many ways, or at least many require some imagination or special knowledge to be apprehended” (p. 186). “There are, however, interesting cases in which compositionality breaks down, either because there is a problem with words or with the semantic rules”. “We refer to these situations as semantic anomaly. Alternatively, it might require a lot of creativity and imagination to derive a meaning. This is what happens in metaphors”. “Finally, some expressions – called idioms – have a fixed meaning, that is, a meaning that is not compositional”. (p. 187). “When what appears to be an anomaly is nevertheless understood in terms of a meaningful concept , the expression becomes a metaphor”. (p. 189). They may have a literal or metaphorical expression. They may therefore be ambiguous and with a strong cultural component; then language creativity is at its highest (p. 190).

5 Idioms or Idiomatic phrases:
“It turns out that languages also contain many phrases whose meanings are not predictable on the basis of the meanings of the individual words. These phrases typically start out as metaphors that “catch up” and are repeated so often that they become fixtures in the language. Such expressions are call idioms, or idiomatic phrases…” An example, “put his foot in his mouth” or “kick the bucket”. (p. 191/192) Idioms – Blue

6 Application #8- Take a few idioms and try to find their source.
A friend in need is a friend indeed Latin origin (semantic ambiguity) 1. a friend ( when you are) in need, is indeed a true friend. (Acceptable in 1562) 2. a friend, (when you are) in need, is someone who is prepared to act to show it (in deed) 3. a friend (which is) in need, is indeed a true friend (indeed) 4. a friend (who is) in need is someone who is prepared to act to show it (in deed) Referenced in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations from the 11th century “It is sayd, that at the nede the frende is knowen” Caxton’s Sonnes of Aymon 1489

7 A la mode French origin A foot in the door American origin
Commanders that are never a la mode but when all in Iron and Steel Anglicized as a noun- ‘glossy black silk’ English- ‘with ice cream’ A la mode was referenced in John Selden’s Laws of England in 1649. An introduction or way into something so that progress may be made later. - it started out as a literal phrase, but progressed into a figurative phrase

8 A fate worse than death Roman origin
A la carte French origin Any misfortune that would make life unlivable, especially rape or loss of virginity. It was formally a euphenism for rape. 1781 from Roman Empire The matrons and virgins of Rome were exposed to injuries more dreadful in the apprehension of chastity than death itself. 1914 from Tarzan of the Apes via Edgar Rice Burroughs {The ape} threw her roughly across his broad, hairy shoulder, and leaped back into the trees bearing Jane Porter away toward a fate a thousand times worse than death. Literally means ‘according to the card’ the card refers to looking at the menu Earliest references in Joseph Sherer’s Notes and Reflections During a Ramble in Germany 1826 “He will find comfortable apartments, civil attendance, excellent fare, a la carte, at any hour.”

9 Can you guess where these idioms originated?
Call A Spade A Spade American origin An American term that originated in the 20th century. 2. Catch 22 Joseph Heller’s novel in 1953 was presented as the trap that confined U. S. Airforce. 3. For the Birds A U.S. army term. A shorten form for army vulgar, 1944 4.

10 Lexical semantics (word meaning)
“…the meaning of a phrase or sentences is partially a function of the meaning of the words it contains”. (p. 193). “However, there is a fundamental difference between word meaning – or lexical semantics – and sentence meaning.” Children learning language must know these meanings outright. In word meaning, there is a relationship that exist between words and morphemes or the smallest unit of linguistic meaning or function. (p. 193)

11 Theories of Word Meaning
One theory is that the meaning of a word is what the word is associated with or its reference. “The real world object is called the referent” (p. 194). Another theory is that because a word always does not have a reference or referent (no reality connected to it, as it may be abstract), the meaning of a word is the mental image in the mind of speakers. (p. 195);or sense.

12 Lexical Relations “Words are semantically related to one another in a variety of ways. The words that describe these relations often end in the bound morpheme –nym”. (p. 196) Examples are synonyms, antonyms, polysemous (a word with multiple meaning that are related conceptually or historically) or hyponyms (relationship between the more general and more specific).

13 Exercise #10: Research Project
There are many –nym/-onym words that describe classes of words with particular semantic properties, as was mentioned previously. But what is the etimology of –onym? What common English word is it related to? How many -nym words and their meaning can you come up with? And do you know the –nym word that was the winning word in the 1997 scripps National Spelling Bee?

14 The etymology of –onym is Greek, onoma which means name or word.
The common English word that it’s related to is name. Name is derived from onyma. Some –nym words and their meaning:

15 Autonym – a word that describes itself; ex
Autonym – a word that describes itself; ex. noun is a noun, word is a word, abbrv. is an abbreviation. Bacronym – the reverse of producing an acronym; taking a word which already exists and creating a phrase using the letters of the word as initials: ex. Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody (BANANA) *On your index cards try to come up with a bacronym of your own.

16 Oronym – a string of words which is homophonic with another string of words; ice cream and I scream, mint spy and mince pie. Retronym – an adjective –noun pairing generated by a change in the meaning of the base noun, usually as a result of technological advance; ex. watch became pocket watch due to the introduction of the wristband, pen became fountain pen due to the introduction of the ball-point pen.

17 Tautonym – a word composed of two identical parts; ex
Tautonym – a word composed of two identical parts; ex. yo-yo, tutu, bye-bye. Euonym was the winning word in the 1997 Scripps Spelling Bee. Euonym is an appropriate name for a person, place, or thing; ex. The realtors name was Sue House.

18 Discussion (1) What are the two theories of word meaning?
(2) How does context contribute to the clarification of ambiguity? Ex: When a student tells you something and the sentence that they are telling does not have constituent structure, would you correct that student by having them reword the sentence or not acknowledge that the sentence is incorrect? (3) What are lexical relations?

19 Did you know?? Did you know that Leonard Bloomfield, who was the most influential figure in linguistics in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century, was strongly influenced by behaviorism? The first chapter in his book Language, titled “Meaning” is evidence of this. He felt we should have a scientifically accurate definition of meaning for every form

20 of a language and that we should have to have a scientifically accurate knowledge of everything in the speakers’ world. He also concluded that the statement of meaning is therefore the weak point in language study, and would stay that way until human knowledge advanced far beyond its present state ( Journal of Foreign Languages (Shanghai), 119:1 (January 1999),2-20).

21 Bloomfield’s ‘stimulus-response’ model of meaning was seen as impractical as it was suited to his theoretical orientation. He tried to reconstruct the field of linguistics as a purely formal structural basis. His view of meaning he shared with other linguists of the time did prove to be a strong barrier to the development of linguistic semantics, A barrier which continued into the Chomskyan era ( Abbott, 1998 ).

22 Resources *Abbott, Barbara (1998). Journal of Foreign Languages (Shanghai), 119:1 (January 1999), 2-20. *AlexESLvid (2009, Jul 13). Idioms in English- ‘Blue’. Retrieved May 9, from *Freymann, Saxton and Elffers, Joost. How Are You Peeling? Scholastic Press, N.Y., 1999 *Jenkins, Steve & Page, Robin. What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2003 *Martin, Gary. ( ). The Phrase Finder. Retrieved May 9, from

23 Nym Words. (1999-2012). Retrieved May 14, 2012. From www
*Nym Words. ( ). Retrieved May 14, From *O’Connor, Jane. (2008). Fancy Nancy’s Favorite Fancy Words, Harper Collins, N.Y. N.Y. *Stockdale, Susan. (2011). Bring On the Birds, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta,Georgia, *WETA. (2012). Reading Rockets. Retrieved May 9, From

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