Presentation on theme: "Semantics and pragmatics"— Presentation transcript:
1 Semantics and pragmatics MeaningSemantics and pragmatics
2 SemanticsFocuses on the literal meanings of words, phrases and sentences;concerned with how grammatical processes build complex meanings out of simpler ones
3 Pragmatics Focuses on the use of language in particular situations; aims to explain how factors outside of language contribute to both literal meaning and nonliteral meanings which speakers communicate using language
4 Semantic meaningTo understand semantic meaning, we have to bring together 3 main components:1) the context in which a sentence is used,2) the meanings of the words in the sentence,3) the morphological and syntactic structure
5 Pragmatic and semantic meaning SemanticsSemantic meaning Speaker’s meaningPragmaticslexicongrammarContext of use
6 Semantics: Sense and reference Sense – ‘meaning’ without reference to the specific real object in the world (e.g. house ‘dwelling’)Reference is ‘meaning’ tied to a specific instance (e.g. ‘the red house’ and ‘the house at the end of the block’ do not have the same meaning in terms of sense, but they could refer to the same house)
7 ExerciseSome argue that proper names have only reference and no sense. Do you agree?
8 Answer?It is possible that proper nouns have reference but no sense, like Spain.There are also noun phrases that have sense but no reference, e.g. The present king of France is bald.
9 Fundamental semantic relations The most fundamental semantic concepts describe how words, phrases, and sentences relate to each other and to the world
10 Synonymy: Synonymous words have (more or less) the same meaning. Some linguists argue that no two words have exactly the same meaning, as they may differ in connotation (e.g. slender, slim, skinny)Or in their typical contexts of use (e.g. buy, purchase)
11 PolysemyA word is polysemous if it has more than one closely related meaning (e.g. wood ‘a piece of a tree’, ‘a group of trees’)In a dictionary, polysemous words are often listed as one head word, with several different senses (e.g. bear: 2 entries: 1.a ‘to move while holding up and supporting’; 2. ‘to give birth to’, 3. ‘to suport the weight of’; 1.b ‘to hold in the mind’; bear n. ‘a big shaggy animal’
12 Vagueness vs. polysemyIt is often difficult to distinguish vagueness from polysemyPolysemous words have multiple different, but related, meanings; vagueness, in contrast, describes a single general meaning which becomes more specific in a particular context of useSince it involves more than one meaning, polysemy is a kind of ambiguity, but vagueness is not
13 HomonymyWords which are pronounced ad possibly spelled in the same way (homographs), but with different meanings, e.g. to, too, two; bat (animal), bat (stick)
14 HeteronymyHeteronymous words have the same graphic form (homographs), but have a different phonetic form, i.e. pronounced differently and have a different meaning (e.g. bass ‘musical instrument’/bass ‘fish’)
15 HyponymyWords whose meanings are specific instances of a more general word: e.g. red, blue, and yellow are hyponyms of color; bed, sofa, table and chair – hyponyms of furniture
16 AntonymyAntonyms – words that are closely related; they have properties in common, such as grammatical class and lexical field, but they oppose each other in one aspect of meaning
17 Antonyms1. complementary when the presence of one implies the absence of the other, e.g. alive/dead, present/absent2. gradable: e.g. rich/poor, happy/sad, short/long3. relational opposites: the existence of one implies the existence of its converse, e.g. buyer/seller, husband/wife.
18 1. odd/even 2. polite/rude 3. short/long 4. pass/fail 5. good/bad Exercise: For each of the pairs of antonyms, decide whether it is a complementary pair, a gradable pair, or relational opposites:1. odd/even2. polite/rude3. short/long4. pass/fail5. good/bad6. moral/immoral7. asleep/awake8. mother/daughter9. black/white10. winner/loser
19 Exercise For each of the categories below, provide examples: 1. synonymy2. polysemy3. homonymy4. heteronymy5. hyponymy
20 ExerciseNote down the synonyms of your classmates. For each decide whether they are exact synonyms, i.e. whether they can easily be substituted for each other
21 The Principle of Compositionality Grammar (morphology and syntax) generates new words, phrases and sentencesThis gives us a potentially infinite number of words, phrases and sentences that can have meaningIn order to explain how an infinite number of pieces of language can be meaningful, and how we, as language users, can figure out the meanings of new ones, semanticists apply the Principle of Compositionality
22 The Principle of Compositionality The semantic meaning of any unit of language is determined by the semantic meanings of its parts along with the way they are put together
23 The Principle of Compositionality: example Mary liked you – the meaning is determined by(a) the meanings of the individual morphemes that make it up (Mary, like, “past”, you)B) the morphological and syntactic structures of the sentence
24 The Principle of Compositionality Compositional semantics (or formal semantics) – concerned how the Principle of Compositionality appliesFormal semanticists study the variety of grammatical patterns which occur in individual languages and across the languages of the world
25 Componential analysis Chomsky: established relationships between syntax, semantics and phonologySyntax: 2 components:1. the base component: the phrase structure rules and their hierarchical relationships, modeled by the deep structure trees; generates the deep structure;2. the transformational component, which consists of the transformational rules; generates surface structures
26 Y-model: centrality of syntax Syntax draws information from the lexicon and “feeds” both PF and LFPF LFLexiconSyntax
27 Componential analysis Meaning is generated both by the syntax and through the words which attach to nodes of the trees
28 Componential analysis In addition to the categorial rules, the base component also consists of a lexicon, in essence our mental dictionary which contains all of the information (morphosyntactic, phonological and semantic) related to the vocabulary items of a language
29 Componential analysis The semantic information contained in the lexicon is represented in terms of semantic features, which are arrived at through componential analysisBreaks down the lexical item into its smaller semantic components
30 Componential analysis The entry for ‘boy’ has the syntactic features: (+Noun), (+Count), (+Common) and it consists of semantic features such as (+) human, which subsumes other semantic features such as (+Animate)Boy +HUMAN –ADULT +MALEGirl +HUMAN –ADULT –MALEMan +HUMAN + ADULT +MALEWoman +HUMAN +ADULT -MALE
31 Componential analysis The categorial rules generate a string of slots to be filled with items from the lexicon via lexical insertion rules.Each slot - associated with a set of features which indicate which kind of item can be filled inBy combining these features with those features in the lexicon, the lexical insertion rules generate such sentences as The boy laughed, but not such sentences as The chalk lauged.
32 Thematic rolesSemantic roles which noun phrases play in relationship to the verb of the clauseVerb has the central role in the clause, and it assigns roles to participants depending on the type of the predicate (e.g.The boy kicked the ball)The boy – doer of the action: agentThe ball – the receiver of the action and is changed by it: the theme
33 Thematic rolesAgent/Causer: Instigator of some action. (John killed Harry)Theme (inanimate) or Patient (animate): Entity undergoing the effect of some action. (John killed Harry) Experiencer: Entity experiencing some psychological state. (John felt happy) Recipient (animate): Entity receiving sth. (John sent a letter to Mary) Goal (inanimate): Entity towards which something moves. (John sent the letter to the post-office) (Radford 1997: 326)
34 ModalityPossible worlds help explain the semantics of modals because they provide a way of talking about alternative possibilitiesThe ability to imagine alternative ways that the world could be – alternative possible worlds – an essential part of the human capacity to use language
35 ModalityEpistemic modals involve reference to facts that we know (I must have left my keys in the car)Deontic modals (Guests should leave their keys in the car);Modals which are about rules, right and wrong, obligations etc. are known as deontic modals
36 Semantics in the lawSemantics can play a role in the interpretation of legislationCase (direct and indirect causation): Raymond Moskal, who lived in Pennsylvania, would buy used automobiles, set back the milometers, send the inaccurate mileage readings to Virginia along with other required information, and receive new titles from Virginia with the incorrect mileage. He would then sell the cars for inflated prices to unsuspecting customers. He was prosecuted and convicted for violating a statute that prohibits the interstate transportation of ‘falsely made’ securities. In short, Moskal got real titles that contained false information.
37 Semantics in the law Legislation: Whoever, with unlawful or fraudulent intent, transports in interstate or foreign commerce any falsely made, forged, altered, or counterfeited securities or tax stamps, knowing the same to have been falsely made, forged, altered, or counterfeited…Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. (18 USC &2314 (2001)
38 Semantics in the lawThe US Supreme Court agreed that Moskal could be punished under this law, but Justice Scalia dissented for two reasons based on the meaning of the phrase falsely made.One reason had to do with the historical meaning of the phrase falsely made in legal documents and the other had to do with its ordinary meaning.
39 Semantics in the lawJustice Scalia showed that in the 100 years up to 1939, when the statute was written, legal documents had used falsely made to mean ‘forged’ or ‘counterfeit’Thus, it seems that the meaning of this crucial phrase had changed, at least within the world of law, between the time the law was written and the time it was applied to Moskal’
40 Semantics in the lawScalia’s other argument was that the phrase falsely made, in its ordinary meaning, includes only things that are counterfeit, not real documents that are made to contain false informationSolan concluded that Scalia’s ordinary meaning argument is wrongHe shows that falsely made typically means ‘made to include false information’ as in “(When falsely made, this accusation (child abuse) can be enormously destructive”
41 Semantics in the lawIn other words, a falsely made accusation means that the accusation contained false information, and Solan assumes by analogy that a falsely made car title would be a car title containing false information
42 Semantics in the law Do you agree with Justice Scalia or the majority? How convincing do you find Scalia’s historical argument?Do you think that Solan is correct that falsely made means the same thing when applied to an accusation and when applied to a document? Is a falsely made car title a counterfeit car title or a car title containing false information?
43 Semantics in the lawWhat do you think of Solan’s strategy of looking at a database of newspaper columns to determine the ordinary meaning of a controversial phrase?
44 Semantics summaryTwo main branches: lexical semantics and compositional semanticsLexical semantics: Meaning of wordsCompositional semantics focuses on the process of building up more complex meanings from simpler ones
45 Pragmatics The study of meaning in use Provides tools to help us understand the meaning in a given social context, including the effect that language has on those involved in the speech situationSemantics – the study of meaning outside of its contextualized use with a focus on the literal meaning of words and phrases
46 Speech act theoryWe often think that the role of language is to explain, inform, describe, and say sth about the worldLanguage – also used to do things, such as promise, bet, request, threaten, warn, apologize, swear (in court), etc.
47 Speech act theory J.L. Austin, How to do Things with Words (1955) "It was for too long the assumption of philosophers that the business of a 'statement' can only be to 'describe' some state of affairs, or to 'state some fact', which it must do either truly or falsely.„Wittgenstein: „Don't ask for the meaning, ask for the use." - language as a vehicle for social activity
48 Speech act theoryAustin questioned the truth value of statements, a view which centered on the conditions of an utterance that can be declared true or falseAustin examined performatives: sentences that are used to do things, rather than declare or state sth
49 Speech acts Performatives: „I now pronounce you man and wife” Only certain people in certain conditions can do this kind of pronouncing; if the conditions are right, then a change has taken place through the uttering the words
50 Speech acts A) I promise to visit tomorrow B) She promised to visit tomorrowSentences which perform actions – performatives (A); other sentences (B) – constativesA good test of whether a sentence is a performative is whether you can insert the word hereby before the verb (I hereby promise; *I hereby walk)
51 Exercise Make a list of performative utterances What conditions must be present for the new state of affairs to come about?
52 PerformativesSpeech acts which in themselves constitute an action: illocutinary forceIllocutionary force - ability of the utterance to carry out an act
53 Speech actsAustin pointed out that even constatives perform actions of a sort; B performs the action of reportingThe distinction between performatives and constatives may not be as important as the idea that all sentences can be used to perform actions
54 Speech acts Locutionary act: the act of saying sth Illocutionary act: the act of doing sth by saying sthPerlocutionary act: the act of achieving sth by saying sth
55 Exercise: write the common locutionary act of the underlined words, illocutionary act and the perlocutionary actScenario 1:(in an elevator, 3 people, A and B know each other, C is smoking:A (to B): Ahem, did I ever tell you that I am allergic to cigarette smoke?Scenario 2: (A is filling in a form for a dating service): A (writing on form): I am allergic to cigarette smoke
56 Speech acts John Searle: direct ad indirect speech acts "In indirect speech acts the speaker communicates to the hearer more than he actually says by way of relying on their mutually shared background information, both linguistic and nonlinguistic, together with the general powers of rationality and inference on the part of the hearer”
57 Speech actsThere are speech acts which are so fundamental to communication that they are captured through the mood of our utterance:Indicative mood: giving informationInterrogative mood: request for informationImperative mood: command to do sth
58 Speech acts The mood of each utterance signals its illocutionary force Context – key in explaining what people are trying to do with the language they use
59 1. Would you mind handing me the salt? Exercise: for each utterance, state the mood. Then state the direct speech act which it could represent, and the indirect speech act which it more likely represents1. Would you mind handing me the salt?2. Go ahead, try it. See where that’ll get you!3. Honey, the phone’s ringing!4. I have always wanted to have a pair of earrings just like those.5. I’m sure I must look awful.
60 Grice’s conversational maxims Imagine you overhear the following conversation:A: Are John and Mary back together again?B: I saw a red Porche parked outside Green Street last night…and it was still there this morning!
61 Grice’s Cooperative Principle In order to help us understand how context works in deciphering meaning in a given situation, we an look to Grice’s Cooperative Principle, which explains how people act in conversation: ‘Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged’
62 Grice’s conversational maximes Grice is not telling us what to do, but rather providing an explanation for how we behave in communicative situations ad how we assume other people behave
63 Grice’s conversational maximes In the exchange above, we might assume that B’s response is providing A with the information requested.We can make the connection between the question and the answer by relying on presupposition: B presupposes that A also knows the following:John has a red PorcheMary lives at 1128 Green Street
65 Grice’s conversational maximes Quantity:Maxim 1. Make your contribution as informative as is requiredMaxim 2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.
66 Grice’s conversational maximes Relevance:Maxim 1. Be relevant.
67 Grice’s conversational maximes Quality:Maxim 1: Do not say what you believe to be false.Maxim 2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
68 Grice’s conversational maximes Manner:Maxim 1: Avoid obscurity of expression.Maxim 2. Avoid ambiguity.Maxim 3. Be brief.Maxim 4. Be orderly.
69 Grice’s conversational maximes When we break any of the sub-principles, we create an instance of conversational implicature:A: I heard you did well on the examB: Yes, and pigs fly.Flouting the maxim of quality, as I am telling an obvious untruth
70 Grice’s conversational maximes: options Observing the maximsViolating one or more maxims (e.g. lying)Opting out (e.g. refusing to answer a direct question)Not fulfilling one maxim because of a clash with anotherFlouting a maxim in order to make a conversational implicature
71 Conversational implicature 1. The speaker deliberately flouts a conversational maxim to convey additional meaning not expressed literally, e.g. a speaker responds to the question: „How did you like the guest speaker?” with the following utterance: „Well, I’m sure he was speaking English”.If the speaker is assumed to be following the cooperative principle in spite of flouting the Maxim of Quantity, the utterance must have an additional nonliteral meaning, such as: „The content of the speech was confusing.”
72 Conversational implicature 2. The speaker’s desire to fulfil two conflicting maxims results in his flouting one maxim to invoke the other, e.g. when he responds to the question „Where is John?” by saying: He’s either in the cafeteria or in his officeThe Maxim of Manner and the Maxim of Quality are in conflict: a cooperative speaker doesn’t want to be ambiguous but also doesn’t want to give false information by giving a specific answer in spite of his uncertaity. By flouting the Maxim of Manner, he invokes the Maxim of Quality
73 Exercise: suggest which maxim is being flouted and what is being communicated through that flouting A. How’s your work coming along?B. It sure is sunny outside.
74 Deixiswords and phrases that cannot be fully understood without additional contextual informationWords are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place.Words or phrases that require contextual information to convey any meaning – e.g., English pronouns – deictic
77 Person grammatical persons involved in an utterance: (1) those directly involved (e.g. the speaker, the addressee),(2) those not directly involved (e.g. overhearers—those who hear the utterance but who are not being directly addressed)(3) those mentioned in the utterance
78 PlaceLocations may be either those of the speaker and addressee or those of persons or objects being referred to.The most salient English examples are the adverbs“here” and “there” and the demonstratives “this” and “that”, e.g.:I enjoy living in this cityHere is where we will place the statueShe was sitting over there
79 TimeTime, or temporal, deixis concerns itself with the various times involved in and referred to in an utterance.This includes time adverbs, e.g. "now", "then", "soon", etc. and also different tensesExample: tomorrow denotes the consecutive next day after every day. The "tomorrow" of a day last year was a different day from the "tomorrow" of a day next week.Time adverbs can be relative to the time when an utterance is made (Fillmore: "encoding time", or ET) or when the utterance is heard (Fillmore’s "decoding time", or DT): e.g. „It is raining now, but I hope when you read this it will be sunny”
81 Social deixisconcerns the social information that is encoded within various expressions, such as relative social status and familiarity.Two major forms of it are the so-called T–V distinctions and honorifics.T–V distinctions, named for the Latin “tu” and “vos” - the name given to the phenomenon when a language has two different second-person pronouns.The varying usage of these pronouns indicates something about formality, familiarity, and/or solidarity between the interactants, e.g. the T form might be used when speaking to a friend or social equal, whereas the V form would be used speaking to a stranger or social superior - common in European languages
82 DiscourseDiscourse deixis, also referred to as text deixis, refers to the use of expressions within an utterance to refer to parts of the discourse that contains the utterance — including the utterance itself: e.g. This is a great story
83 Anaphora.An anaphoric reference refers to something within a text that has been previously identified, e.g. "Susan dropped the plate. It shattered loudly" the word "it" refers to the phrase "the plate".A cataphoric reference refers to something within a text that has not yet been identified, e.g. in "He was very cold. David promptly put on his coat" the identity of the "he" is unknown until the individual is also referred to as "David".
84 Anaphora A. Do you see that baby girl over there? She is cute. When a word or phrase picks up its meaning from some other piece of language nearby, the relationship between the two – anaphoraA word which gets its meaning in this way – an anaphor, and the piece of language which gives the anaphor its meaning – its antecedent
85 PresuppositionPresupposition - when a speaker’s choice of words shows that he is taking sth for grantedE.g.: John stopped crying at noon – makes sense if it is assumed that John was crying just before noon.
86 Presuppositionan implicit assumption about the world or background belief relating to an utterance whose truth is taken for granted, e.g.:Jane no longer writes fiction.Presupposition: Jane once wrote fiction.Have you stopped eating meat?Presupposition: you had once eaten meat.Have you talked to Hans?Presupposition: Hans exists.
87 PresuppositionA presupposition must be mutually known or assumed by the speaker and addressee for the utterance to be considered appropriate in context.
88 PresuppositionPresuppositions – often understood in terms of the notion of common groundThe common ground – a set of propositions which the participants in a conversation mutually assumeThe common ground - a major part of the context of use, and helps us make explicit the role of presupposition
89 Meaning and the intention to communicate Indexicality and presupposition – aspects of pragmatics which have to do with the relationship between context of use and semantic meaning
90 Culture-specific implicature Cultural assumptions can be crucial in determining speaker’s meaningExample: if two Chinese people are looking at the dessert display in a French restaurant, and one says to the other, “That tart is not too sweet”, she intends this comment as praise of the tart. She might intend to implicate that her dinner partner should order the tart. This meaning arises, in part, from the fact that it is common knowledge among Chinese people that most of them find western desserts too sweet. Among some other groups, the same comment could be interpreted as a criticism, rather than a compliment
91 Culture-specific implicature The cultural specificity of the speaker’s meaning is not a fact about the Chinese languageThe implicature could arise regardless of the language they are speaking
92 Pragmatics summaryPragmatics – about how the context of use contributes to meaning, both semantic meaning and speaker’s meaningCore topics: indexicality, presupposition, implicature, speech acts