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Semantics Meaning in Language Asian 401. Semantics  The study of the systematic ways in which languages structure meaning, especially in words and sentences.

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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:

1 Semantics Meaning in Language Asian 401

2 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

3 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.

4 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?

5 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?

6 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.”

7 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.”

8 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.

9 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

10 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.)

11 Today’s lecture  Two examples of semantics:  Lexical Semantics  Metaphor

12 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.)

13 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.

14 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.

15 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?

16 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.

17 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.

18 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

19 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’

20 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’

21 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’

22 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.

23 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.

24 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.

25 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!)

26 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?)

27 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’

28 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.”

29 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”

30 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.

31 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.

32 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’

33 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?

34 End


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