Chapter Two The Scope of Semantics
2.3 Sense and reference Reference deals with the relationship between the linguistic elements and the non-linguistic world of experience. Sense relates to the complex system of relationships that hold between the linguistic elements themselves; it is concerned only with intralinguistic relations.
Semantics is concerned only with the way we relate our language to our experience. • Reference is the essential element of semantics. • Sense relationships are important in the study of language. Examples of related words: • 1- involving sex or gender: ram/ewe, cow/bull, sow/boar • 2- involving adult and young: duck/duckling, pig/piglet
3- involving family relationship: father/son, uncle/nephew • These relations are part of the semantic (not the grammatical) structure of English. • The dictionary is concerned with sense relations, with relating words to words. • What is the aim of dictionary? P.30 • We have two kinds of semantics: • 1- One deals with semantic structure • 2- The other deals with meanings in terms of our experience outside language
Semantics is concerned not only with words but also sentences. • It is concerned with sentence meaning and its relation to word meaning. • Look at examples on p. 31. • 2.3 The Word • The word is one of the basic units of semantics. Yet there difficulties.
1- Not all words have the same kind of meaning as others; some seem to have little or none. E.g. ‘to’ in Boys like to play. • Words may be divided into two types: • 1- full words like sing, tree, blue. • 2- form words like it, the, and. • The full words seem to have the kind of meaning that we would find in a dictionary. • The form words belong to grammar and have only grammatical meaning.
2- The word is not a clearly defined linguistic unit. It is conventional, defined in terms of the spaces in the written text. • Bloomfield offered a solution by suggesting that the word is the minimum free form, the smallest form that may occur in isolation. • Bloomfield also suggested that we should look for an element smaller than the word, a unit of meaning – the MORPHEME. However, in cases where morpheme do not work, we use the LEXEME .
Many words in English are called PHONAESTHETIC, in which the initial cluster of consonants indicates the meaning of a rather special kind. Examples: • 1- /sl-/= ‘slippery’, as slide, slip, slither, slush. • 2- /sl-/= ‘pejorative’ , as slattern, slut, sloppy. • 3- /sk-/= ‘surface’ or ‘superficiality, as skate, skimp, skid, skim, skin. • 4- ‘-ump’= roundish mass, as plump, hump, stump, lump.
3- There is no consistency about the number of semantic units we may recognize in a word. In this point we have to distinguish between two types of words TRANSPARENT & OPAQUE. • We can determine the meaning of transparent words from the meaning of their parts. • This is not possible with opaque words. • Thus chopper and doorman are transparent.
But axe and porter are opaque. • 4- Some whole groups of words must be taken together to establish meaning- these are IDIOMS= sequences of words whose meaning cannot be predicted from the meanings of the words themselves. E.g. p.36 • Semantically, idioms are single units, but they are not single grammatical units like words. • Semantic division may override word division: heavy smoker=heavy smok+er, good singer=good sing+erNOT good+singer
2.5 The Sentence • Q: Whether the basic unit of meaning is not the word but the sentence ? • We communicate with sentences and the sentence is the expression of a complete thought. • The sentence is essentially a grammatical unit, and the function of syntax is to describe the structure of the sentence. • Thus S=NP + VP which can be a single word • E.g. ‘Birds fly’ or one word sentence ‘Horses’
Define • Ellipsis & pro-formation • Surface structure & deep structure • The meaning of a sentence can be predicted from the meaning of the words it contains, or more precisely, from these words qua lexemes and the grammatical features with which they are associated. • So each sentence will have a meaning (literal) or if it is ambiguous two or more meanings.
However, there are other kinds of meaning that are not directly related to grammatical and lexical structure. • 1- Meaning carried by prosodic & paralinguistic features of language. • 2- Uaing various devices, we can indicate what is important, contrastive or new. • 3- There is a variety of speech acts. • 4- We can say one thing and mean another. • 5- Presupposition.
6- A variety of social relations. • We should distinguish between sentence meaning & utterance meaning. • The distinction is useful but there are two reservations. • 1- We cannot always decide what is sentence meaning and what is utterance meaning. • 2- the term ‘utterance’ is a little misleading.
For some scholars the basic unit of semantics is the proposition, for semantics must be truth-conditional and the propositions can always be characterized as true or false. • E.g. ‘I was there yesterday’, as a sentence cannot be true or false but as a proposition it can be. • To distinguish between sentences and propositions is to distinguish between direct and indirect speech.
Compare: • John said ‘I’ll come on Tuesday’ • John said he would come on Tuesday. • Difficulties in restricting semantics to propositions: • 1- All the kinds of utterance meaning will be outside semantics. • 2- We shall be restricted to statements, while questions and commands are excluded.
3- we should have nothing to say about modality. • 4- there will be doubts whether sentences containing deicticscan ever be accurately stated in propositional terms. • 5- when we wish to refer to propositions we normally do so in terms of sentences.