What is Semantics ? Semantics is generally considered to be the study of meaning in language.
Some Views on semantics 1) One of the oldest views is the Naming Theory.
? The form is a word in a language and the meaning is the object in the world that it stands for, refers to or denotes.
Words are names or labels for things. In other words, the semantic relationship holding between words and things is the relationship of naming.
Weakpoints of Naming Theories 1) This theory seems to apply only to nouns.
2)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.
2. Concepts This theory holds that words and things are related through the mediation of concepts of the mind. This can be best illustrated by the Semiotic Triangle advanced by Ogden and Richards.
Thought or Reference Symbol Referent
Thought or Reference concept Symbol Referent Linguistic elements such as words or sentences The object, etc, in the world of experience
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.
Weekpoints ? This theory raises a new problem. For example, what is precisely the link between the symbol and concept?
Some scholars have suggested that the link is simply a psychological one ---when we think of a name, we think of a concept.
The problem is that people don’t actually try to see the image of something in their mind’s eye every time they utter a word.
3. Context and behaviourism 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 behaviour.
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
4.behaviourist 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.”
the famous account of Jack and Jill r s R S Events after speech Events before speech Speech
S r s R 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.
5. 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.
Therefore they regard the task of semantics mainly as one to explain those data supplied by direct resort to intuition by constructing theories
Lexical Meaning Two Concepts to Understand Sense Vs Reference
Sense Sense relates to the complex system of relationships that hold between the linguistic elements themselves; it is concerned only with intra- linguistic relations.
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.
Duck/ducking, pig/piglet, dog/puppy, lion/cub, etc. form another pattern indicating a relationship between adult and young.
Narrow/wide, male/female, buy/sell, etc. show a different pattern related to opposition.
In fact, when we are talking of sense relations, we are talking of synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, polysemy, homonymy, etc.
3.2 synonymy Synonymy is used to mean “ sameness of meaning”
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.
" His ----of knowledge is enormous!" Range, breadth,etc. are synonymous.
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.
But they differ in degrees of wonder or bewilderment. Amaze denotes difficulty of belief and astound extreme difficulty of belief.
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.
“Anger, rage, fury, indignation and wrath” are synonymous in denoting the emotional excitement induced by intense displeasure.
"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."
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
Couplets Borrowed words Answer reply homely domestic might power buy purchase fiddle violin
Couplets Borrowed words brotherly fraternally bodily corporal house mansion hearty cordial driver chauffeur
Triplets Native French Latin kingly royal regal time age epoch rise mount ascend fast firm secure
native French Latin belly stomache abdomen holy sacred consecrated fire flame conflagration fear terror trepidation ask question interrogate
A) dialectal synonyms Synonyms belonging to different dialects of the language