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Meaning. Cao Ning School of English Language Longdong University. Outline. Introduction Views on meaning Lexical meaning Sense relations between sentences Analysis of meaning. What is Semantics ?. Semantics is generally considered to be the study of meaning in language.

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  1. Meaning Cao Ning School of English Language Longdong University

  2. Outline Introduction Views on meaning Lexical meaning Sense relations between sentences Analysis of meaning

  3. What is Semantics ? Semantics is generally considered to be the study of meaning in language.

  4. What does “mean/meaning” in the following sentences mean? • John means to write. • A green light means to go. • Health means everything. • His look was full of meaning. • What is the meaning of life? • What does ‘capitalist’ mean to you?

  5. Introduction Meaning • What a language expresses about the world we live in or any possible or imaginary world. • Central semantic notion defined and used differently depending on the theoretical approach.

  6. Some Views on semantics ? • One of the oldest views is the Naming Theory. • Words are names or labels for things. • In other words, the semantic relationship holding between words and things is the relationship of naming.

  7. Some Views on semantics • Weakpoints of Naming Theories • This theory seems to apply only to nouns. • even with nouns, there will be problems, because many nouns such as unicorn, fairy, ghost, heaven relate to creatures or things that do not exist.

  8. Some Views on semantics • Conceptualism • According to this theory, there is no direct link. between symbol and referent (between language and the world). The link is via thought or reference, the concepts of our minds. • It holds that meaning should be studied in terms of situation, use, context – elements closely linked with language behavior. … the meaning of a word is its use in the language (proposed by J. R. Firth).

  9. This can be best illustrated by the Semiotic Triangle advanced by Ogden and Richards. Thought or Reference Symbol Referent

  10. Thought or Reference concept Linguistic elements such as words or sentences Symbol Referent The object, etc, in the world of experience

  11. Weakpoints ? • This theory raises a new problem. For example, what is precisely the link between the symbol and concept?

  12. Context and behaviorism • During the period roughly from 1930 to 1960, linguists gave pre-eminence to the empirical or observational aspect in the study of meaning. • This theory holds that meaning should be studied in terms of situation, use, context---elements closely linked with language behavior.

  13. Context and behaviorism • Firth, the leading British linguist of the period held the view that “ We shall know a word by the company it keeps.” • a piece of paper a daily paper an examination paper a white paper a term paper

  14. Behaviorist theory • According to Bloomfield, the meaning of a linguistic form should be viewed as “ the situation in which the speaker utters it, and the response which it calls forth in the hearer.”

  15. Behaviorist theory the famous account of Jack and Jill r s S R Events before speech Events after speech Speech

  16. R S r s Events before speech Events after speech Speech Bloomfield argued that meaning consists in the relation between speech and the practical events S and R that precede and follow it.

  17. Mentalism • This approach has been headed by Chomsky since 1960’s. • Mentalists believe that data needed for the study of language can be supplied by direct resort to intuition. • They argue that people often judge which sentences are synonymous, which sentences are ambiguous, which sentences are ill-formed or absurd, based on their intuition.

  18. Mentalism • Therefore they regard the task of semantics mainly as one to explain those data supplied by direct resort to intuition by constructing theories.

  19. Geoffrey Leech (1974, 1981).Semantics: The Study of Meaning. Seven types of meaning: • Conceptual meaning • Connotative meaning • Social meaning • Affective meaning • Reflected and meaning • Collocative meaning • Thematic meaning Associative Meaning

  20. (1) Conceptual meaning • Also called ‘denotative’ or ‘cognitive’ meaning. • Refers to logical, cognitive or denotative content. • Concerned with the relationship between a word and the thing it denotes, or refers to.

  21. (2) Connotative meaning • The communicative value an expression has by virtue of what it refers to, over and above its purely conceptual content. • A multitude of additional, non-criterial properties, including not only physical characteristics but also psychological and social properties, as well as typical features.

  22. Involving the ‘real world’ experience one associates with an expression when one uses or hears it. • Unstable: they vary considerably according to culture, historical period, and the experience of the individual. • Any characteristic of the referent, identified subjectively or objectively, may contribute to the connotative meaning of the expression which denotes it.

  23. Step mother

  24. (3) Social meaning • What a piece of language conveys about the social circumstances of its use. • Dialect: the language of a geographical region or of a social class. • Time: the language of the 18th c., etc. • Province: language of law, of science, of advertising, etc. • Status: polite, colloquial, slang, etc. • Modality: language of memoranda, lectures, jokes, etc. • Singularity: the style of Dickens, etc.

  25. domicile: very formal, official • residence: formal • abode: poetic • home: general • steed: poetic • horse: general • nag: slang • gee-gee: baby language

  26. (4) Affective meaning • Reflecting the personal feelings of the speaker, including his attitude to the listener, or his attitude to something he is talking about. • You’re a vicious tyrant and a villainous reprobate, and I hate you for it! • I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, but I wonder if you would be so kind as to lower your voices a little. • Will you belt up.

  27. (5) Reflected meaning • Arises in cases of multiple conceptual meaning, when one sense of a word forms part of our response to another sense. • When you hear ‘click the mouse twice’, you think of Gerry being hit twice by Tom so you feel excited. • Many taboo terms are result of this.

  28. (6) Collocative meaning • The associations a word acquires on account of the meanings of words which tend to occur in its environment. • pretty: girl, boy, woman, flower, garden, colour, village, etc. • handsome: boy, man, car, vessel, overcoat, airliner, typewriter, etc.

  29. (7) Thematic meaning • What is communicated by the way in which a speaker or writer organizes the message, in terms of ordering, focus, and emphasis. • Mrs. Bessie Smith donated the first prize. • The first prize was donated by Mrs Bessie Smith. • They stopped at the end of the corridor. • At the end of the corridor, they stopped.

  30. Sense • Sense relates to the complex system of relationships that hold between the linguistic elements themselves; it is concerned only with intra-linguistic relations.

  31. Pairs of words can be formed into certain patterns to indicate sense relations. Cow/hello, sow/boar, ewe/ram, mare/stallion etc. form a pattern indicating a meaning related to sex.

  32. Duck/ducking, pig/piglet, dog/puppy, lion/cub, etc. form another pattern indicating a relationship between adult and young.

  33. Narrow/wide, male/female, buy/sell, etc. show a different pattern related to opposition.

  34. Sense relations In fact, when we are talking of sense relations, we are talking of • Synonymy • antonymy • hyponymy • polysemy • homonymy

  35. buy/purchase • thrifty/economical/stingy • autumn/fall • flat/apartment • tube/underground

  36. Synonymy Synonymyrefers to the sameness or close similarity of meaning. e.g. buy / purchase world / universe brotherly / fraternal !But total synonymy is rare, The so-called synonyms are all context dependent.

  37. Synonymy • Context plays an important part in deciding whether a set of lexical items is synonymous. • " What a nice of flowers!“ • The items “range, selection, choice,” etc. are synonymous.

  38. Sense relations • " His of knowledge is enormous!" • Range, breadth, etc. are synonymous

  39. Sense relations Difference in meaning • amazeand astound form a pair of synonyms. Both suggest great wonder or bewilderment in the face of something that seems impossible or highly improbable. A teacher was amazed to find that a lazy student had gained a mark of 100 in an important test. A woman may be astounded to learn that her dearest friend has been spreading malicious gossip about her.

  40. Sense relations • But they differ in degrees of wonder or bewilderment. Amaze denotes difficulty of belief and astound extreme difficulty of belief.

  41. Sense relations • “Anger, rage, fury, indignation and wrath” are synonymous in denoting the emotional excitement induced by intense displeasure.

  42. Sense relations • "Anger" , the most general term, describes merely the emotional reaction; the word itself suggests no definite degree of intensity, and carries no necessary implication of outward manifestation; • " to conceal one's anger", • " Tom is easily aroused to anger."

  43. Sense relations • "Rage" often implies a loss of self-control. • " fury" , the strongest word in the group, suggests a rage so violent that it may approach madness. • The insolence of the waiters drove him into a rage, and he flung his plate to the floor and stalked out of the restaurant. • Mad with fury, John pounded his fists on the wall and beat his breast.

  44. Sense relations • "Indignation" denotes anger based on a moral condemnation of something felt to be wrong and unfair; e.g. • Abolitionists viewed the institution of slavery with indignation. • Mary expressed her indignation at being unfairly dismissed.

  45. Sense relations • English is particularly rich in synonyms for the historical reason that its vocabulary has come from two different sources, from Anglo -Saxon on the one hand and from French, Latin and Greek on the other.

  46. Sense relations • Since English is considered to be a Germanic language from a historical point of view, with Anglo-Saxon as an earlier stage of its development, the "Anglo-Saxon" words are often considered "native" while those from French, Latin or Greek are “foreign”, “borrowed” from these languages.

  47. Couplets Borrowed words Answer reply homely domestic might power buy purchase fiddle violin

  48. Couplets Borrowed words brotherly fraternally bodily corporal house mansion hearty cordial driver chauffeur

  49. Triplets Native French Latin kingly royal regal time age epoch rise mount ascend fast firm secure

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