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An understanding of semantics is essential to the study of language acquisition (how language users acquire a sense of meaning, as speakers and writers, listeners and readers) and of language change (how meanings alter over time). It is important for understanding language in social contexts, as these are likely to affect meaning, and for understanding varieties of English and effects of style. It is thus one of the most fundamental concepts in linguistics
The study of semantics includes the study of how meaning is constructed, interpreted, clarified, obscured, ill ustrated, simplified negotiated, contradicted and paraphrased. In general, however, semantics generally refers to how meaning is conveyed through the symbols of a written language.semantics is the "study of the meaning of a language".
Additionally, it is concerned with the conceptual meaning and not the associative meaning. The conceptual meaning is what a word in fact denotes, as for example Friday the 13th is a day between Thursday the 12th and Saturday the 14th, and that is the conceptual meaning of the phrase Friday the 13 th. Yet, for many people the idea of that day brings to mind thoughts of bad luck and misfortune, which is the associative meaning.
EXAMPLE 2.When one first reads the word “crash,” for example, a car accident may leap to mind. However, the term can also be used to discuss the sound that is created when a pair of large symbols are brought together in a piece of music, or how waves break against a rocky coast. The meaning of words is analyzed in several different ways in order to account for as many aspects of meaning as possible. First of all, words are analyzed in terms of their semantic features that is basic elements which enable the differentiation of meaning of words.
ELEMENTS OF SEMANTICS There are many different aspects of semantics, which are all very interesting. Just think of the many ways that words, phrases and sentences aquire meaning. Some words have actual entites to which they refer, such as chair. This word refers to a collective idea of all the chairs in existence. Other words have less exact meaning and may vary within the minds of speakers, such as love. This word can mean many I love my mom. I love chocolate cake. I love my husband. I love Paris. Each of these examples show a different contextual meaning of the word love
ROLE OF SEMANTICS IN LANGUAGE: Semantics in language determines the relationship between signifiers and what they signify. Although images and body language can be included as signifiers in a wider study of semantics, linguistic semantics deals strictly with words and their meanings. Semantics is a subfield of linguistics specializing in the study of meaning. Signifiers have multiple levels of meaning: The simplest level, also known as the first order of signification, is the denotation of a word.
Denotation refers to a strictly literal understanding, and the object referred to is known as the denotata. For example: The noun phrase “brown bear” signifies a large omnivorous mammal known scientifically as the ursus arctos. Various cultural or emotional meanings attached to a word provide one or more deeper levels of meaning. These subjective meanings are known as connotations. For example: A camper might hear “brown bear” with a connotation of fear and panic. On the other hand, “brown bear” might mean friendship, comfort, and security for a child who plays and sleeps with a stuffed animal.
MONTAGUE GRAMMAR: The field of formal semantics, or model theoretic semantics, was pioneered by philosopher and mathematician Richard Montague in the mid twentieth century. Montague showed how all sentences could be broken down into subjects and predicates. These parts could be compared to mathematical concepts, particularly those in the branch of mathematics called typed lambda calculi, in order to evaluate its meaning. This theory is also known as Montague grammar.
Although Montague‟s theory of semantics in language is one of the first and most commonly accepted, various philosophers have created other systems. For example, the theory of truth-conditional semantics was developed by Donald Davidson shortly after Montague published his work on formal semantics. Truth-conditional semantics evaluates the truth of a sentence by looking to specific, real world examples. Other theories include conceptual, lexical, and computational semantics…… semantics.
AGENT, THEME, INSTRUMENT, EXPERIENCER: Semantic roles describe the way in which words are used in sentences and the functions they fulfill. Thus, the entity that performs an action is known as an agent, while the entity involved in an action is called the theme. When an agent uses an entity in order to do something this entity is called an instrument. However, when a person in a sentence does not perform any action, but only has a perception, state of feeling then the role is described as experiencer
Finally there are roles connected with motion or position of entities. So, the location is where an entity is, the source is the initial position of the entity, the place where it moves from and the goal is where the entity moves to.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WORDS: One other issue investigated by semantics is the relationship between words, some of which are known to almost every language user, others very abstract and vague for a common speaker.
SYNONYMS: Synonym and antonym are forms of Greek nouns which mean, respectively, “same name” and “opposed (or different) name”. Synonyms have an identical reference meaning, but since they have differing connotations, they can never be truly synonymous. Synonyms are two words with very similar, almost identical meaning, such as buy and purchase, or cab and taxi. In some cases however, although the meaning seems nearly identical there is a difference in the word usage or the level of formality and therefore the words can not always be substituted.
ANTONYMS: The relationship between words is the case when two words have opposite meanings, the words such as male/female, old/new, interesting/boring are antonyms. Antonyms are divided into gradable and non-gradable antonyms.
Gradable antonyms are opposites along a scale in that when someone says „I am not high‟ it does not necessarily mean „I am short‟. Non-gradable antonyms do not present such flexibility: when we say „I am married‟ the only antonym available in this sentence would be „I am single‟. True and false may show a clearer contrast. Clear either/or conditions are expressed by complementary antonyms as, open/closed, dead/alive, on/off.
Another kind (not really opposites at all) are pairs which go together, and represent two sides of a relation: these are relational antonyms. Examples would be husband/wife, borrow/lend, murderer/victim, plaintiff/defendant.
HYPONYMS: Sometimes the meaning of one word is included in the meaning of another, broader term. Then the relationship between words can be described as hyponymy as in the case of words: vegetable and carrot. A carrot is necessarily a vegetable, therefore the meaning of the word vegetable is included in the word carrot, so carrot is a hyponym of vegetable. In this relation the word vegetable is the superordinte (higher level term) of the word carrot. The relationship of hyponymy and superordination can be illustrated by the following diagram:
Hyponymy is an inclusive relationship where some lexemes are co-hyponyms of another that includes them. As cutlery includes knife, fork, spoon (but not teacup) these are co-hyponyms of the parent or super ordinating term. This traditional term denotes a grouping similar to a semantic field. So cod, guppy, salmon and trout are hyponyms for fish. David Crystal points out that this is a linguistic, not a real-world, relationship - so it varies from one language to another. In English potato is a hyponym of vegetable but in German the lexeme Gemüse does not include Kartoffel (potato).
HOMOPHONY: Homonyms are different lexemes with the same form (written, spoken or both). Homophones are words which have different written forms, but the same pronunciation such as: right/write, to/too/two, bear/bare. Homophones are often mistaken for homonyms, but homonyms are words which have the same written or spoken forms and unrelated meanings. For example: Bat (flying creature) and bat (used in baseball), race (contest) and race (ethnic group).
POLYSEMY: Polysemy (or polysemia) is an intimidating compound noun for a basic language feature. The name comes from Greek poly (many) and semy (to do with meaning, as in semantics). Polysemy is also called radiation or multiplication. For example: Paper comes from Greek papyrus. Originally it referred to writing material made from the papyrus reeds of the Nile, later to other writing materials, and now to things such as government documents, scientific reports, family archives or newspapers. Another example could be Head: head as a part of body; mind, or mental ability; a person in charge.
METONYMY: Metonymy is based on close connection of certain entities in everyday experience. The connection can be that of container-content, whole-part, or others. It is clearly visible in the following example „he drank the whole bottle‟ when it is obvious that he did not drink the container, but the content of the bottle.
DENOTATION: This is the core or central meaning of a word or lexeme, as far as it can be described in a dictionary. It is therefore sometimes known as the cognitive or referential meaning. It is possible to think of lexical items that have a more or less fixed denotation (sun, denoting the nearest star, perhaps) but this is rare.
CONNOTATION: Connotation is connected with psychology and culture, as it means the personal or emotional associations aroused by words. When these associations are widespread and become established by common usage, a new denotation is recorded in dictionaries. A possible example of such change would be vicious. Originally derived from vice, it meant “extremely wicked”. In modern British usage it is commonly used to mean “fierce”, as in the brown rat is a vicious animal.
COLLOCATION: Some words are most commonly found paired with other words, to create a semantic unit or lexeme. These pairs are known as collocations. They are very helpful in establishing the meanings of the words in the pair. For Example: Play is likely to be followed by film, mag, series.It may be collocated with actor, director & merchant but is less likely to be followed by customer, operative or minister.
FIXED EXPRESSIONS: When words become grouped in almost predictable ways these are fixed expressions. For Example: Jewel in the crown, desirable residence, criminal mastermind, world of work, address the issues, I put it to you.
PROTOTYPE THEORY: Prototype theory helped in explaining the meaning of a certain word not in terms of its features but in terms of resemblanceto the clearest examplar. For Example: If we take an example of Bird then we will understand it that dove, pigeon, hen, parrot fall in this category, not according to its features that which has feathers or wings. Native speakers of english might wonder that ostrich and penguin are hyponyms of birds, but we are sure that sparrow and pigeon are birds so they are prototype.
SEMANTIC FIELDS: In studying the lexicon of English (or any language) we may group together lexemes which inter- relate, in the sense that we need them to define or describe each other. For Example: We can see how such lexemes as cat, feline, moggy, puss, kitten, tom, queen and miaow occupy the same semantic field. We can also see that some lexemes will occupy many fields: noise will appear in semantic fields for acoustics, pain or discomfort and electronics. Although such fields are not clear-cut and coherent, they are akin to the kind of groupings children make for themselves in learning a language. An entertaining way to see how we organize the lexicon for ourselves is to play word- association games.