Presentation on theme: "Semantics Meaning in Language Asian 401. Semantics The study of the systematic ways in which languages structure meaning, especially in words and sentences."— Presentation transcript:
Semantics The study of the systematic ways in which languages structure meaning, especially in words and sentences. Not an easy field; the analysis of meaning is extremely difficult and messy
Logical Semantics It seems simple: words have meanings; syntax combines the meanings in systematic ways. If we know the meanings of the words and the rules of the syntax, we know the meaning of the sentence: Professor Handel teaches linguistics.
Complications Much of what we say is not simply the assertion of truthful statements about the world. Many things we say are ambiguous or have indirect or multiple meanings. Ambiguity: I saw her duck. How do we know which meaning is intended?
Literal vs. Social Meaning Two friends meet. One says: “I really like your dress.” “That’s an ugly hair style you’ve got.” “You are very tall.” All three statements are true. Why say the first but not the other two?
Literal vs. Communicative Meaning Wife (sitting in living room): “Don’t you think it’s cold in here?” Husband: “Yes.” Why is this an odd conversation? Because: The wife is making a request, not asking a question. Husband: “I’ll turn up the heat.”
Logical Semantics What is the truth value of sentences? How can it be determined from its words and syntax? Entailment Contradiction “The current king of France is tall.”
Pragmatics The study of how context, attitude, belief, intention, etc. inform linguistic meaning. How do utterances contribute to conversations and social relations? Sentences can signal intentions to be a good conversational partner, to be friendly, to be cooperative, etc.
Pragmatics When learning another language, pragmatics can be harder to master than semantics. “Why do people in China keep asking me if I’ve eaten yet?” “Why does my Japanese friend always mention the weather in his letters?” Politeness not related to semantics
How do Languages Encode Meaning? Are linguistic concepts encoded in words, in syntactic structures, in intonation? How do languages differ? (Intonation: “Pinkie’s Tailor Shop” joke.)
Today’s lecture Two examples of semantics: Lexical Semantics Metaphor
Lexical Semantics Lexeme = word Lexical = related to words Lexical semantics is the study of how meaning is encoded in words (as opposed to other linguistics structures like syntax or intonation.)
Lexicalization As far as we know, all languages are capable of expressing all ideas. Languages differ in which meaning elements are encoded into words, and which are expressed with phrases. When something is encoded in a word, we say that it is lexicalized.
Example: Motion Verbs These meaning elements are relevant to motion: What is moving (the object) How it is moving (the manner) Where it is moving (the path) Motion in the real world always involves all three aspects.
Lexicalization of Motion Aspects Example: A rock rolls down the hill. Which of these three aspects are lexicalized in different languages? In other words, which are encoded in the meaning of the motion verb, and which are expressed in other ways?
English: Motion Verbs encode Manner walk; run; climb; crawl; slither; roll; limp; slide; wriggle These verbs indicate the manner of movement, but not the path or object. “I was crawling” says nothing about path of motion. The sentence subject (not the verb) tells us what is moving.
English: Motion Verbs encode Manner To express path in English, we must add a preposition to the motion verb: Walk up the stairs Run down the mountain Climb over the rocks Slide into the empty seat To express what is moving, we use a sentence subject.
Romance: Motion Verbs encode Path Spanish: bajar ‘move down’, subir ‘move up’, cruzar ‘move across’, salir ‘move out’ These verbs say nothing about manner. Describing manner requires the addition of an adverb, like “rolling”, “crawling”, etc. French, Italian, etc. are the same
Atsugewi: Motion Verbs encode Object Type From our textbook, it appears that Atsugewi motion verbs encode the object but not the manner or path Lup ‘a small, shiny spherical object moves’ Swal ‘a limp, linear object suspended at one end moves’
Chinese Two classes of motion verb: Class 1 encodes manner: tsow™¡¢ ‘walk’, pæaw™¡¢ ‘run’, tæjaw 51 ‘jump’, pæa 35 ‘climb’ Class 2 encodes path: t ʃ in 51 ‘move in’, t®æu 55 ‘move out’, kwø 51 ‘move across’, ®å≥ 51 ‘move up’
Chinese To express both manner and path, you create a compound verb composed of one verb from each class: tsow™¡t ʃ in 51 ‘walk in’, pæaw™¡kwø 51 ‘run across’, tæjaw 51 t®æu 55 ‘jump out’, pæa 35 ®å≥ 51 ‘climb up’
Metaphor Using a word with a literal meaning for a second meaning that shares some common characteristics with the first meaning. We often think of metaphor as a device in poetry or other literary genres (“rosy-fingered dawn”). In fact our everyday language is full of metaphors.
Metaphor: Examples We were in the eye of the storm. The dollar is falling sharply. The pupil breezed through the SATs. When his dog died, it broke his heart. The guitarist is really on fire tonight! He has a high voice. The computers are down.
Metaphors Metaphors allow us to be creative and vivid in our use of language. There are universal patterns of metaphor use found in all languages. But in many cases different languages use different metaphorical systems.
Example 1: TIME is a PRECIOUS RESOURCE This will save me lots of time! You’re wasting time. I’ll buy some time. Don’t spend so much time; it’s not worth it. (Not all languages talk about time this way!)
Example 2: LOVE is a JOURNEY Our relationship just isn’t going anywhere. It looks like Bill and Ann have hit a dead end. I really like you, but I think we need to slow down. (Can you think of other examples?)
Example 3: HEART is the seat of emotions His heart isn’t in it. He’s got a big heart. The king’s heart was glad. Don’t break my heart. Chinese: få≥ 51 ʃ in 55 ‘release the heart’ = ‘set one’s mind at ease, not worry’
Example 4a: LIVER is the seat of emotions Eastern Cham (Austronesian language of Southern Vietnam) pəta ː won-təponpa ʔ həta ː j king happyatliver “The king was overjoyed.”
Example 4b: LIVER/GALL are seats of emotions Mandarin Chinese: 肝膽俱裂 kan 55 tan 214 t ʃ y 51 lj ɛ 51 livergallallbroken “to be broken-hearted”
Example 5: TIME as SPACE We talk about time (past, present, future) as locations in space. The future is in front, the past is behind I wonder what lies ahead? Don’t look back at the past, look forward into the future.
Example 5: TIME as SPACE *Don’t look left at the past, look right into the future. *I wonder what’s above on our schedule for tomorrow.
Example 5: TIME as SPACE Chinese: past is ABOVE, future is BELOW ®å≥ 51 k ɤ 51 ʃ i≥ 55 t ʃ æi 55 aboveCLweek ‘last week’ ʃ ja 51 k ɤ 51 ʃ i≥ 55 t˚æi 55 belowCLweek ‘next week’ ®å≥ 51 k ɤ 51 y‰ 51 ‘last month’ ˚ia 51 k ɤ 51 y‰ 51 ‘next month’
Handout Exercise Can you identify the mappings (“A is B”, e.g. “LOVE is a JOURNEY”) that the metaphorical expressions on your handout are based on?
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