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Chapter Five Meaning

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  1. Chapter FiveMeaning

  2. 1. The Study of Meaning • Semantics: • The meaning of words: Lexical semantics • The meaning of sentences: Propositional meaning, compositional meaning • Linguistic semantics vs. Logical semantics/philosophical semantics • Pragmatics: • The meaning of utterances

  3. 2. Semantic Meaning • Semantics is the study of meaning in language. • Meaning has been studied for thousands of years by philosophers, logicians and linguists. E.g. Plato & Aristotle.

  4. Logicians and philosophers have tended to concentrate on a restricted range of sentences (typically, statements, or ‘propositions’) within a single language. • The linguistic approach is broader in scope, aiming to study the properties of meaning in a systematic and objective way, with reference to as wide a range of utterances and languages as possible.

  5. 3. The meaning of meaning • C. K. Ogden & I. A. Richards (1923). The Meaning of Meaning. • John means to write. • A green light means to go.

  6. Health means everything. • His look was full of meaning.

  7. What is the meaning of life?

  8. What does ‘capitalist’mean to you?

  9. What does ‘cornea’mean? • The transparent, convex, anterior portion of the outer fibrous coat of the eyeball that covers the iris and the pupil and is continuous with the sclera.

  10. 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

  11. (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.

  12. (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.

  13. 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.

  14. Step mother

  15. (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.

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

  17. The five clocks by Martin Joos Frozen Formal Consultative Casual Intimate Formal <------------------------------> Informal

  18. (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. or • Will you belt up.

  19. Commendatory tough-minded resolute, firm shrewd childlike wiseman man of usual talent portly, stout, solid, plum slender, slim Derogatory ruthless obstinate sly, crafty childish wiseguy freak fleshy, fat, tubby lean, skinny, lanky, weedy, scraggy ‘Colorful’ meaning

  20. (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.

  21. (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.

  22. (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.

  23. 4. The Theory of Reference • Words → Meaning: Words ‘name’ or ‘refer to’ things-- Platonic • Words→Concepts→Things: Ogden & Richards thought/concept/image symbolizesrefers to symbol referent (word) stands for (object)

  24. airplane

  25. 5. Sense • ‘Meaning’ is not some kind of ‘entity’ separate from language. • That words ‘have meaning’ means only that they are used in a certain way in a sentence. There is no ‘meaning’ beyond the meaning of individual words and sentences.

  26. Ludwig Wittgenstein: ‘The meaning of a word is its use in the language’. • Meaning is studied by making detailed analyses of the way words and sentences are used in specific contexts. • Reference: how language refers to this external world • Sense: the way people relate words to each other within the framework of their language

  27. The family tree • 舅父 = ‘mother’s brother’ • 叔叔 = ‘father’s younger brother’ • 伯父 = ‘father’s elder brother’ • 姨母 = ‘mother’s sister’ • 姑母 = ‘father’s sister’

  28. 6. Sense Relations • Synonymy • Antonymy • Hyponymy Gradable Complementary Converse

  29. 6.1 Synonymy • buy/purchase • thrifty/economical/stingy • autumn/fall • flat/apartment • tube/underground

  30. 6.2 Gradable antonymy • good ----------------------- bad • long ----------------------- short • big ----------------------- small • Can be modified by adverbs of degree like very. • Can have comparative forms. • Can be asked with how.

  31. 6.3 Complementary antonymy • odd : even • pass : fail • boy : girl • hit : miss • alive : dead • male : female • present : absent • innocent : guilty

  32. 6.4 Converse antonymy • buy : sell • lend : borrow • give : receive • parent : child • husband : wife • teacher : student • above : below • before : after • host : guest • employer : employee

  33. 6.5 Hyponymy • Inclusiveness • A is included in / a kind of B. • Cf.: chair and furniture, rose and flower • Superordinate/hypernym: the more general term • Hyponym: the more specific term • Co-hyponyms: members of the same class

  34. Animalbird fish insect animal human animal tiger lion elephant ...

  35. 7. Componential Analysis • HUMAN • man (ADULT, MALE) • woman (ADULT, FEMALE) • boy (NON-ADULT, MALE) • girl (NON-ADULT, FEMALE)

  36. 7.1 Animal words

  37. 7.2 Domestic animals

  38. 7.3 English motion verbs

  39. 7.4 More complex ones • father: PARENT (x, y) & MALE (x) • x is a parent of y, and x is male. • take: CAUSE (x, (HAVE (x, y))) • x causes x to have y. • give: CAUSE (x, (~HAVE (x, y))) • x causes x not to have y.

  40. 8. Meaning & Syntactic Structure • The meaning of a sentence is obviously related to the meanings of the words used in it, but it is also obvious that sentence meaning is not simply the sum total of the words.

  41. The cat is chasing the mouse. • The mouse is chasing the cat. • I have read that book. • That book I have read. • The daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s son is the son of Queen Elizabeth’s daughter.

  42. 8.1 Compositionality • An integrated theory • Katz & Fodor (1963): The structure of a semantic theory. A 40-page long paper published in Language. • “The method itself is years out of date but the debate about the principle of compositionality is by no means over.” (Cruse, 2004: 77)

  43. The idea behind the principle was to solve the problem of generating grammatical but meaningless (?) sentences like Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  44. Global warming is a fact, and while the word “global” makes the problem seem so big, you can help, even if it ison a small scale. You can start in your own home, with “green living.” Vanity Fair’s Virtual Green website gives great green ideas, room by room. For the kitchen, for example,the people atVirtualGreen suggest a smart, cute, and eco-friendly stool, the “chiquita stool,” made of rattan and recycled steel.

  45. Green product Green building Green life Green guide Green earth Green environment Green environmental materials Green energy Green business Green consumption Green internet service Green agriculture Green revolution Green Olympics Green economics

  46. According to the principle of compositionality, each word in the lexicon is equipped with certain components and combinations of words into sentences must go through certain selection restrictions in order to produce acceptable sentences. • Thus we can say colorful ball because

  47. colorful {Adj} • (Color) [abounding in contrast or variety of bright colors] <(Physical Object) or (Social Activity)> • (Evaluative) [having distinctive character, vividness, or picturesqueness] <(Aesthetic Object) or (Social Activity)>