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Semantics and pragmatics

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1 Semantics and pragmatics
Meaning Semantics and pragmatics

2 Semantics Focuses 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 meaning To 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
Semantics Semantic meaning Speaker’s meaning Pragmatics lexicon grammar Context 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 Exercise Some 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 Polysemy A 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. polysemy It is often difficult to distinguish vagueness from polysemy Polysemous words have multiple different, but related, meanings; vagueness, in contrast, describes a single general meaning which becomes more specific in a particular context of use Since it involves more than one meaning, polysemy is a kind of ambiguity, but vagueness is not

13 Homonymy Words 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 Heteronymy Heteronymous 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 Hyponymy Words 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 Antonymy Antonyms – 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 Antonyms 1. complementary when the presence of one implies the absence of the other, e.g. alive/dead, present/absent 2. gradable: e.g. rich/poor, happy/sad, short/long 3. 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/even 2. polite/rude 3. short/long 4. pass/fail 5. good/bad 6. moral/immoral 7. asleep/awake 8. mother/daughter 9. black/white 10. winner/loser

19 Exercise For each of the categories below, provide examples:
1. synonymy 2. polysemy 3. homonymy 4. heteronymy 5. hyponymy

20 Exercise Note 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 sentences This gives us a potentially infinite number of words, phrases and sentences that can have meaning In 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 applies Formal 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 phonology Syntax: 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 LF PF LF Lexicon Syntax

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 analysis Breaks 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 +MALE Girl +HUMAN –ADULT –MALE Man +HUMAN + ADULT +MALE Woman +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 in By 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 roles Semantic roles which noun phrases play in relationship to the verb of the clause Verb 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: agent The ball – the receiver of the action and is changed by it: the theme

33 Thematic roles Agent/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 Modality Possible worlds help explain the semantics of modals because they provide a way of talking about alternative possibilities The ability to imagine alternative ways that the world could be – alternative possible worlds – an essential part of the human capacity to use language

35 Modality Epistemic 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 law Semantics can play a role in the interpretation of legislation Case (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 law The 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 law Justice 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 law Scalia’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 information Solan concluded that Scalia’s ordinary meaning argument is wrong He 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 law In 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 law What 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 summary Two main branches: lexical semantics and compositional semantics Lexical semantics: Meaning of words Compositional 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 situation Semantics – the study of meaning outside of its contextualized use with a focus on the literal meaning of words and phrases

46 Speech act theory We often think that the role of language is to explain, inform, describe, and say sth about the world Language – 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 theory Austin questioned the truth value of statements, a view which centered on the conditions of an utterance that can be declared true or false Austin 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 tomorrow Sentences which perform actions – performatives (A); other sentences (B) – constatives A 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 Performatives Speech acts which in themselves constitute an action: illocutinary force Illocutionary force - ability of the utterance to carry out an act

53 Speech acts Austin pointed out that even constatives perform actions of a sort; B performs the action of reporting The 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 sth Perlocutionary 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 act Scenario 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 acts There are speech acts which are so fundamental to communication that they are captured through the mood of our utterance: Indicative mood: giving information Interrogative mood: request for information Imperative 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 represents 1. 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 Porche Mary lives at 1128 Green Street

64 Grice’s conversational maximes
Cooperative Principle: Quantity Relevance Quality Manner

65 Grice’s conversational maximes
Quantity: Maxim 1. Make your contribution as informative as is required Maxim 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 exam B: Yes, and pigs fly. Flouting the maxim of quality, as I am telling an obvious untruth

70 Grice’s conversational maximes: options
Observing the maxims Violating 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 another Flouting 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 office The 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 Deixis words and phrases that cannot be fully understood without additional contextual information Words 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

75 Deixis

76 Deixis: traditional categories
Person Place Time

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 Place Locations 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 city Here is where we will place the statue She was sitting over there

79 Time Time, 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 tenses Example: 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”

80 Deixis: other categories
Discourse Social

81 Social deixis concerns 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 Discourse Discourse 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 – anaphora A word which gets its meaning in this way – an anaphor, and the piece of language which gives the anaphor its meaning – its antecedent

85 Presupposition Presupposition - when a speaker’s choice of words shows that he is taking sth for granted E.g.: John stopped crying at noon – makes sense if it is assumed that John was crying just before noon.

86 Presupposition an 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 Presupposition A presupposition must be mutually known or assumed by the speaker and addressee for the utterance to be considered appropriate in context.

88 Presupposition Presuppositions – often understood in terms of the notion of common ground The common ground – a set of propositions which the participants in a conversation mutually assume The 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 meaning Example: 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 language The implicature could arise regardless of the language they are speaking

92 Pragmatics summary Pragmatics – about how the context of use contributes to meaning, both semantic meaning and speaker’s meaning Core topics: indexicality, presupposition, implicature, speech acts

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