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Chapter 5 The Meaning of Language Don’t Be Afraid..!
Meaning The conceptual or semantic aspect of a sign or utterance that permits us to comprehend the message being conveyed. (Fromkin, page 552) Or, more simply put, meaning is the thing or idea that a word, expression, or sign represents. I think this means I’m in trouble.
Truth & Consequences You know when a sentence is true or false, because you can understand its meaning. A sentence can entail another. If you know that one sentence is true, then you can infer that the second is also true. The first sentence entails the other (i.e., the second follows behind!) Fromkin, page 174
Semantics examines the ways in which words, phrases, and sentences can have meaning. Linguists, in search of meaning study: Compositional semantics – The meaning of a phrase is composed of the meaning of its parts. - Semantic Rules - Idioms Lexical semantics – The study of how and what the words of a language denote. Lexical units are the words so therefore lexical semantics involves the meaning of each individual word. Lexical semantics is the one area of linguistics to which we can continually add throughout our lives, as we are always learning new words and their meanings whereas we can only learn the rules of our native language during the critical period when we are young. - Sense - Lexical Relations - Semantic Features & Grammar - Argument Structure Pragmatics – The difference b/tw sentence meaning and speaker’s meaning (i.e, context) We have so much time, and so little to do! Strike that, reverse it.
Compositional Semantics Semantic Rules Ambiguity arises when a word or phrase has multiple meanings. Lexical ambiguity arises when context is insufficient to determine the sense of a single word that has more than one meaning. Syntactic ambiguity arises when a sentence can be parsed in more than one way. Rule 1 A sentence is true if the noun and the verb agree. Max barks. This sentence is true if Max is among the individuals referred to by barks. Rule 2 A sentence is true if the noun and the verb agree, and where the verb is transitive, the object of the verb is a member of the noun set. Jack kissed Laura. The sentence is true if Jack (noun), kissed Laura. It is false if Jack kissed Kate, as Kate is not a member of the noun set (i.e., she is not the object of the action.)
Metaphors & Idioms can give rise to ambiguity, even for native speakers. Semantic anomalies exist when the individual words have meaning, but the syntactic structure and the rules cannot be applied. A metaphor directly connects two unlike things without using like, as, or as if. In a metaphor, one thing is spoken of as though it were something else. In linguistic terms, this is an anomaly, even though the concept can be understood, because they have a literal and an ambiguous meaning. At 81, he is a prune – old, dried up, and wrinkly, but still sweet in the middle. Time is money. Idioms present a distinct problem in that none of the rules of semantics apply. Rules are broken and meaning becomes frozen. I bet that was a feather in your cap! Oh, I meant to give it to you, but it slipped my mind! I am head over heels in love!
Lexical Semantics The study of the denotation (dictionary definition) of the word. A lexicon is the mental storehouse of the information you have about words (Fromkin, page 186) Referent The real world thing a word refers to. Sense The part of a word’s meaning, combined w/context, which determines the referent. When words “have relations”, these are considered lexical! Synonyms, Antonyms and Homonyms are examples of lexical relations.
Pragmatics The study of the connotation of the word or words used. Linguistic Context - The discourse that precedes the phrase or sentence being interpreted. Situational Context - The environment that surrounds the discourse. Pronouns, when used as a part of discourse, can create miscommunication. What “he” are we referring to? Deixis occurs when certain words are used and we are dependent on the context to understand their meaning. He’s so cute, I just want to kiss him!
References Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online Wikipedia - Lexical semantics Word Play: Sites that Feature Fun with Words