- Slides: 77
Meaning Semantics and pragmatics
Preview � Definitions: semantics and pragmatics � Sense and reference � Lexical semantics: Fundamental semantic relations � Compositionality � Componential analysis � Thematic roles � Tense and Modality � Figurative uses of language
Definitions: semantics and pragmatics � Semantics – the study of meaning in language � Pragmatics – studies how speakers integrate contextual and non-linguistic knowledge in the communication of meaning � Semantics – concerned with language as a system � Pragmatics – concerned with how speakers use language
Semantics � Focuses on the literal meanings of words, phrases and sentences; � concerned with how grammatical processes build complex meanings out of simpler ones
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
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)
Sense and reference � Reference: the act of using language to identify or pick out individuals � Sense: the linguistic knowledge which allows the act of reference
Sense and reference: example � Sense: President of the USA � Reference (2017): Trump � Reference: I ate a banana for breakfast this morning. � Sense: A banana is a type of fruit.
Denotation and extension � Any banana is a kind of fruit – denotation; the class of entities to which an expression may apply is its extension. � I’m looking for a cat – either a particular cat or looking to select from a set of cats. Listeners would have to infer which was meant in a particular context.
Sense and reference: key points � Denotation – the relationship between words and the world that makes reference possible � The person or thing identified by uttering a noun phrase or name is called the ‘referent’ � The class of entities to which an expression may be applied is called its ‘extension’ � Sentences are abstractons from utterances � While sentences have meaning, their full interpretation only emerges when they are uttered in context
Exercise � Some argue that proper names have only reference and no sense. Do you agree?
Answer? � It is possible that proper nouns have reference but no sense, like Spain. � There also noun phrases that have sense but no reference, e. g. The present king of France is bald.
Exercise: for each of the following sentences imagine a situation in which it is uttered by a speaker. Which of the expressions in bold would the speaker be using to refer to a particular entity? � 1. A seagull just stole my sandwich. � 2. I don’t like living in a city. � 3. No politician is completely honest. � 4. The dugong doesn’t look anything like a mermaid. � 5. A police spokesman said they are looking for a one-armed man.
Lexical semantics � The study of word meaning � The basic aims: � 1) to represent the meaning of each word in the language � 2) to show the meanings of words in a language are interrelated � Morphemes – the minimal units of meaning which make up words and larger units
The lexicon � Our lexicon – a collection of lexemes with � 1) a representation of its meaning and � 2) representation of its meaning relations with other lexemes
Lexical relations � The most fundamental lexical relations describe how words, phrases, and sentences relate to each other and to the world
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)
Types of homonymy � A) Different category, same pronunciation, same spelling (bear) A and B: homonyms � B) same category, same pronunciation, different spelling (pair and pear) � C) different category, same pronunciation, different spelling, (to and two): homophones � D) same category, different pronunciation, same spelling (row ‘line’ and row ‘quarrel): homographs � E) different category, differet pronunciation, same spelling (v. lead and noun lead (denoting the metal)
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’
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
Synonymy: � Synonymous words have (more or less) the same meaning: (answer – reply) � 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)
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
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
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.
Hyponymy �A relation of inclusion between more specific and less specific terms: poodle, boxer, bulldog, schnauzer – hyponyms of dog (hyperonym) � These relations can have several levels, so dog is a hyponym of a mammal, which is a hyponym of animal
Hyponymy � These networks – conceptual and cultural rather than natural since words can be in several networks (dog is a hyponym of pet, where its co-hyponyms may be cat, turtle, hamster, etc. ) � These hierarchical networks in the lexicon of a language – of great interest in anthropology and psychology since they reflect the conceptual classifications of the world embedded in particular languages
Exercise � For each of the categories below, provide examples: � 1. synonymy � 2. polysemy � 3. homonymy � 4. hyponymy
Key points: Word meaning � Lexical semantics – the study of word meaning and meaninng relations between words in the vocabulary � The store of knowledge about a language’s words – the ‘lexicon’ � The semantic unit at word level – the ‘lexeme’ � Meaning relations in the lexicon: homonymy, polysemy, antonymy, hyponymy � The meaning of a word is usually equated with a concept, with no common agreement about how this is structured
Sentence meaning: 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
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
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
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
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, which are then listed through feature notation, which includes the semantic and phonological features
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
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.
Sentence meaning � Speakers combine words into phrases and sentences, and sentences allow us to describe the world in different ways � Construal - the particular view-point that a speaker chooses when describing something � Every language offers its speakers a range of ways to classify situations and events, and to describe the roles of the people and objects involved
Sentence meaning: classifying the situation � Situations: static and dynamic � Static situations – relating individuals to locations, or attributing them qualities (The book is in the library; She’s a doctor) � Dynamic situations – identification of change; can be viewed as processes or events, or actions � States – described by adjectives � Dynamic situations – described by verbs
Aspect and tense � Distinctions of situation types involve different ways of viewing time � The linguistic aspects: aspect and tense � Aspect allows different views of how a situation is distributed over time, while tense allows the positioning of situations in time relative to some reference point
Aspect � Lexical and grammatical � Lexical apect: situation type (durative – situations spread over time, and punctual, which describes sth taking place instantaneously
Aspect � When sentences are constructed, lexical aspect combines with grammatical aspect � Grammatical aspect – marked by morphology and the use of specific auxiliaries (perfective/imperfective: a) John built a house, b) John was building a house) � Aspect- inextricably linked to tense � Tense – anchored relative to the current act of speaking or writing
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
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
Sentence meaning: classifying participants � Another range of semantic options allows the speaker to characterize the roles of various entities in a situation � There are certain semantic roles available to a speaker, which can be associated with verbs
Semantic/thematic/participant roles � Agent: initiator of action, capable of acting with volition � Patient: entity undergoing the effect of some action, typically undergoing a change of state � Theme: the entity which is moved by an action, or whose location is described � Experiencer: an entity aware of the action or state described by the predicate but not in control of it � Beneficiary: the entity benefiting from an action
Semantic roles � Instrument: the means by which an agent causes sth to come about � Location: the place in which sth is situated or takes place � Goal: the entity towards which sth moves � Source: the entity from which sth moves � Stimulus: the entity causing an effect in the experiencer
Semantic 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: theme
Examples �A rock star (agent) threw the television (theme) from the window (source) � The takeoff (stimulus) frightened the passangers (experiencer) � The conspirators (agent) assasinated Julius Caesar (patient) with daggers (instrument)
Semantic roles � Reason for identifying these roles – the insight they provide into the lexical semantics of verbs � Representing semantic roles can help capture facts about verb classes and argument structure possibilities
Example: kill vs assassinate � A) Kill: agent, patient, instrument � Doctors killed the virus with a mystery drug. � A mystery drug killed the virus. � B) assasinate: agent, patient, instrument � The anarchist assassinated the emperor with a bomb. � *The bomb assassinated the emperor.
Example: kill vs assassinate � Kill: 2 argument structures: one with the AGENT, the other with the INSTRUMENT � Assassinate only allows the first � This can be viewed both as a semantic difference between the verbs and as a difference in the viewpoints on a situation that they allow to the speaker � Such differences can identify whole subclasses of verbs
Meaning relations between sentences � Synonymy can be recognized at both lexical and sentence levels � (The parrot is dead/The parrot is no longer alive)
Meaning relations between sentences � Lexical antonymy is mirored at sentence level by contradiction: ? The door is open and is shut. � – forces hearers to look for non-literal meanings
Meaning relations between sentences: entailment � Describes a relation between two sentences where the second follows automatically from the first, without any need for reasoning � (Jane is Patrick’s wife. � Patrick is Jane’s husband)
Meaning relations between sentences: hyponymy � Harold has bought a poodle. � Harold has bought a dog.
Key points: sentence meaning � Aspect allows speakers to characteize how situations are profiled over time � Some aspectual distinctions are part of a verb’s basic meaning (lexical aspect), while others are marked by verb inflections and auxiliary verbs (grammatical aspect) � Tense – a semantic system expressed in grammar that allows speakers to locate situations in time, relative to the act of utterance � Semantic roles reflect a semantic classification of how entities in a situation relate to the verb
Non-literal meaning: examples � Literal and non-literal meaning of utterances: We’ve seen this movie millions of times. � They are in talks with Seoul again. � Your landlady is a dragon.
Non-literal meaning � Hyperbole � Metonymy � Metaphor
Non-literal meaning � Scholars in cognitive semantics claim that metaphor and metonymy are integral both to thought and language � Metaphor – a strategy of coping with new or difficult areas of knowledge by relating them to existing and more accessible knowledge � Metaphor –the linguistic reflection of analogical reasoning
LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor � Love – journey � Co-travellers – lovers � The vehicle – the relationship � The journey – phases in the relationship � Physical obstacles – difficulties experienced � Distance covered – progress in relationship � Decisions on routes – choices about what to do � Destination – goal of relationship
Metaphor �A structural mapping between domains of knowledge rather than a single comparison � LOVE IS A JOURNEY � Love – the target domain � Journey – the source domain � The source domain – more concrete and familiar, allowing a cognitive control over the target domain
Other conceptual metaphors � Time is money � Ideas are commodities � Arguments are buildings
Metaphorical mapping � Important words source for the creation of new
Metonymy �A systematic referential strategy that relies on bodies of knowledge � Speakers select contextually salient associations to guide hearers to the intended referent
Metonymy � Estimation of contextual salience influenced by some general principles, e. g. � 1) a preference for identifying human agents in description of actions (e. g. Why did George Bush invade Iraq? ) � 2) preference for the concrete over the abstract (e. g. The Minister volunteered to lend her voice to the campaign)
Types of metonymy � Part for whole: � They rely on air power not boots on the ground. � Whole for part: � The police are at the door � Producer for product � He drives a Hyundai. � Place for institution � The Government has urged Beijing to…
Metonymy �A means of adding new lexemes to the lexicon: � 1) things named after their materials: an iron (for clothing), a glass (for drinking), � 2) things named after their associated people or places: diesel, guillotine, sandwich, bikini
Key points: Non-literal meaning �A traditional view of language distinguishes between literal language, where speakers make their meaning clear, and non-liteal or figurative language, where special techniques are used to appeal to the senses or emotons � Lists of non-literal uses of language, sometimes called tropes, have been established (metaphor, metonymy) � Cognitive semanticists reject the traditional literal/non-literal distinction and view metaphor and metonymy as linguistic reflections of general cognitive processes
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.
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)
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.
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’
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”
Semantics in the law 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 � In
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?
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?
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