- Slides: 14
Semantics: the study of meaning Semantics studies the meaning of words and other parts of language, it is the systematic study of meaning. The study of meaning can be undertaken in various ways. Speakers of a language have an implicit knowledge about what is meaningful in their language and it is easy to show this. Three disciplines are concerned with the systematic study of ‘meaning’ in itself: psychology, philosophy, and linguistics.
continue • Linguistic semantics is concerned with what knowledge individual speakers of a language possess which makes it for them to communicate with one another. They naturally depend on lexemes and other related matters.
continue • Linguistic semantics is an attempt to explicate the knowledge of any speakers of a language which allows that speaker to communicate facts, feeling, intentions and products of the imagination to other speakers and to understand what they communicate to him or her. .
Nature of Language • All animal have some system for communication with other member of their members of their species, but only humans have a language which allows them to produce and understand ever-new message and to do without any outside stimulus. Bees, birds, dolphins and chimpanzees, among other animals, transmit and interpret a fixed number of messages that signal friendliness or hostility, the presence of food or of danger, or have to do with mating and care of offspring.
Demonstrating semantic knowledge To demonstrate semantic knowledge the speakers must have a vocabulary and know how to pronounce every item in this vocabulary and how to recognize its production by other speakers. it is fairly easy to show what knowledge speakers have about meanings in their language and therefore what things must be included in an account of semantics.
continue • The followings demonstrate seven aspects of any speaker’s semantic knowledge. 1. Meaningful in English 1 a. Henry drew a picture. 1 b. Henry laughed. 1 c. The picture laughed. 1 d. Picture a Henry drew. 1 a and 1 b are meaningful, while 1 c and 1 d are anomalous (examples of anomaly). Sentence 1 c has the appearance of being meaningful and it might attain meaning in some children’s story or the like, while 1 d is merely a sequence of words.
continue • 2. Speakers of a language generally agree as to when two sentences have essentially the same meaning and when they do not. 2 a. Rebecca got home before Robert. 2 b. Robert got home before Rebecca. 2 c. Robert arrived at home after Rebecca. 2 d. Rebecca got home later than Robert. • Sentences that make equivalent statements about the same entities, like 2 a and 2 c, or 2 b and 2 d, are paraphrases (of each other).
continue • 3. Speakers generally agree when two words have essentially the same meaning – in a given context. In each sentence below one word is underlined. Following the sentence is a group of words, one of which can replace the underlined word without changing the meaning of the sentence. 3 a. Where did you purchase these tools? use buy release modify take. • 3 b. At the end of the street we saw two enormous statues. pink smooth nice huge original • Word that have the same sense in a given context are synonyms – they are instances of synonymy and are synonymous with each other.
continue • 4. Speakers recognize when the meaning of one sentence contradicts another sentence. The sentences below are all about the same person, but two of them are related in such a way that if one is true the other must be false. 4 a. Edgar is married. 4 b. Edgar is fairly rich. 4 c. Edgar is no longer young. 4 d. Edgar is a bachelor. Sentence that make opposite statements about • the same subject are contradictory.
continue • 5. Speakers generally agree when two words have opposite meanings in a given context. For example, speakers are able to choose from the group of words following 5 a and 5 b the word which is contrary to the underlined word in each sentence. 5 a. Betty cut a thick slice a cake. bright new soft thin wet • 5 b. The train departs at 12: 25. arrives, leaves, waits, swerves. • Two words that make opposite statements about the same subject are antonyms; they are antonymous, instances of antonymy.
continue • 6. Some sentences have double meanings; they can be interpreted in two ways. Speakers are aware of this fact because they appreciate jokes which depend on two-way interpretation, like the following. 6 a. Marjorie doesn’t care for her parakeet. (doesn’t like it; doesn’t take care of it) • 6 b. Marjorie took the sick parakeet to a small animal hospital. (small hospital for animals; hospital for small animals) • A sentence that has two meanings is ambiguous – an example of ambiguity.
continue • 7. Speakers are aware that two statements may be related in such a way that if one is true, the other must also be true. • 7 a. There are tulips in the garden 7 b. There are flowers in the garden. 7 c. The ladder is too short to reach the roof. 7 d. The ladder isn’t long enough to reach the roof. • These pairs of sentences are examples of entailment. Assuming that 9 a and 9 b are about the same garden, the truth of 9 a entails the truth of 9 b, that is, if 9 a is true, 9 b must also be true. Likewise, assuming the same ladder and roof, the truth of 9 c entails the truth of 9 d.
Language in use • Pragmatics: another branch of linguistics that is concerned with meaning, but speakers also know how to use this knowledge when they listen and read, when they speak and write – when they communicate (particular acts of communication). The study of how words and phrases are used with special meanings in particular situations. e. g. “When did you last see my brother? ” “ Around noon, ” “Last Tuesday, ” “I think it was on June first, ”…. And so on.
Difference between Pragmatics and Semantics • semantics: is mainly concerned with a speaker’s competence to use the language system in producing meaningful utterances and processing (comprehending) utterances produced by others. Pragmatics: a person’s ability to derive meanings from specific kinds of speech situations – to recognize what the speaker is referring to, to relate new information, to interpret, to infer, …