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Meaning. Semantics and pragmatics. Semantics. Focuses on the literal meanings of words , phrases and sentences ; concerned with how grammatical processes build complex meanings out of simpler ones. Pragmatics. Focuses on the use of language in particular situations ;

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  1. Meaning Semanticsandpragmatics

  2. Semantics • Focuses on theliteralmeaningsofwords, phrasesandsentences; • concernedwith how grammaticalprocessesbuildcomplexmeaningsoutofsimplerones

  3. Pragmatics • Focuses on the use oflanguageinparticularsituations; • aims to explain how factorsoutsideoflanguagecontribute to bothliteralmeaningandnonliteralmeaningswhichspeakerscommunicateusinglanguage

  4. Speaker’s meaningandsemanticmeaning • To understandsemanticmeaning, wehavetobringtogether 3 maincomponents: • 1) thecontextinwhich a sentence is used, • 2) themeaningsofthewordsinthe sentence, • 3) themorphologicalandsyntacticstructure

  5. Example • (1) Mydogchased a catunderthehouse. • Because (1) containsthepronounmy, partofitsmeaningdepends on thefactthatyouuttered it • Sinceyouuttered it, myrefers to you • Thesemanticmeaningdepends to some extent on thecontextofuse, thesituationinwhichthe sentence wasuttered, by a particularspeaker, to a particularaddressee, at a particular time, etc

  6. Example • Thesemanticmeaningof (1) alsodepends on themeaningsoftheindividualwords: dog, chased, cat,etc. – thesemanticmeaningdepends on thelexicon • Morphologicalandsyntacticstructureof sentence (1) is crucial to itsmeaning • Ifthewordswererearranged to A catunderthehousechasedmydog, it wouldmeansthdifferent – thesemanticmeaningalsodepends on thegrammaticalstructureofthe sentence

  7. Thespeaker’s meaning (1) • Supposeyouknow I’ve lostmycatandyousay (1) to me • Yourspeaker’s meaningwouldbe to inform me thatmycatmaybehidingunderthehouse, and to suggestthat I gothere to look for it • To understandwherethismeaningcomesfrom, weneedtobringtogethertwocomponents: thesemanticmeaningandpragmaticmeaning

  8. Thespeaker’s meaning (1) • Pragmaticmeaning: I have to assumethatwebothknowmycat is missing, thatyouknow I want to find it, andthatyouwant to seethatmycat is safelyback home

  9. Pragmaticandsemanticmeaning • Semantics SemanticmeaningSpeaker’s meaning Pragmatics lexicon grammar Contextof use

  10. Semantics vs. pragmatics • Semanticsfocuses on the link betweenthelexicon, grammarandsemanticmeaning • Pragmaticsfocuses on theconnectionbetweencontextof use andsemanticmeaning

  11. Semantics • Studyingthesemanticsofdifferentlanguagesshows us the great varietyofwaysinwhichlanguagescanaccomplishthetaskoftalkingaboutthe world • Identifyingwhat is common to thesemanticsof all languageshelps us to understandwhat is uniqueaboutlanguageand human nature

  12. Fundamentalsemanticconcepts • The most fundamentalsemanticconceptsdescribe how words, phrases, andsentencesrelate to eachotherandtothe world • Synonymy: • Twowords, phrases, or sentences are synonymsiftheyhavethe same semanticmeaning (I saw more thantwoandfewerthanfivedogs = I sawthree or fourdogs)

  13. Fundamentalsemanticconcepts • Antonymy: • Twowords are antonymousiftheyareopposedinsemanticmeaning (e.g. tall – short) • Hyponymy • A word is a hyponymofanotherifitssemanticmeaning is more specificthantheother’s (e.g. dog – animal)

  14. Fundamentalsemanticconcepts • Hyperonymy • A word is a hyperonymofanotherifitssemanticmeaning is more general thantheother’s (animal is a hyperonymofdog) • Polysemy • A word, or phrase, or sentence is polysemousif it hasmultiplesemanticmeanings (e.g. bank: riverbank vs. financial institution; head; chair)

  15. Fundamentalsemanticconcepts • Entailment • A sentence entailsanotherifthetruthofthe first guaranteesthetruthofthesecond. (e.g. I like all animalsentailsI like dogs) • Tautology • A sentence is a tautologyif it must betrue (Ifsomething is a big animal, it’s ananimal)

  16. Fundamentalsemanticconcepts • Contradiction • A sentence is a contradictionif it cannotbetrue (I like dogscontradictsI hate all animals)

  17. ThePrincipleofCompositionality • Grammar (morphologyandsyntax) generates new words, phrasesandsentences • Thisgives us a potentiallyinfinitenumberofwords, phrasesandsentencesthatcanhavemeaning • Inorder to explain how aninfinitenumberofpiecesoflanguagecanbemeaningful, andhowwe, as languageusers, can figure outthemeaningsof new ones, semanticistsapplythePrincipleofCompositionality

  18. ThePrincipleofCompositionality • Thesemanticmeaningofanyunitoflanguage is determinedbythesemanticmeaningsofitspartsalongwiththewaythey are put together

  19. ThePrincipleofCompositionality: example • Marylikedyou– themeaning is determinedby • (a) themeaningsoftheindividualmorphemesthatmake it up (Mary, like, “past”, you) • B) themorphologicalandsyntacticstructuresofthe sentence

  20. ThePrincipleofCompositionality • Doesnotapplyonly to sentences • It impliesthatthemeaningoftheverbphraselikedyouis determinedbythemeaningsofitspartsandthegrammaticalstructureofthe VP, andthemeaningofthe word liked is determinedbythemeaningsofthetwomorphemesthatmake it up (likeand –ed)

  21. ThePrincipleofCompositionality • Compositionalsemantics (or formalsemantics) – concerned how thePrincipleofCompositionalityapplies • Formalsemanticistsstudythevarietyofgrammaticalpatternswhichoccurinindividuallanguagesandacrossthelanguagesofthe world

  22. Subjects, predicates, arguments • Themeaningof a sentence – determinedbythemeaningsofitsparts • Most sentences: subjectandpredicate • In most Englishsentences, thesubject is the first NP andthepredicate is the VP ofthe sentence • UnderthePrincipleofCompositionality, themeaningofsuch a sentence is determinedintermsofthemeaningofitssubjectandpredicate

  23. Subjects, predicates, arguments • SimpleNPsrefer to particularthingsinthe world (calledreferents) • Thepredicatetypicallycontains a verb, adjective, noun or prepositionalphrase: • ran downthe street (VP) • is happy(is + AP) • is underthe table (is + prepositionalphrase) • is a butterfly(is + NP)

  24. Proposition • Themeaningof a sentence is called a proposition • Proposition -a completethought, a statementwhichcanbetrue or false • Theproposition is trueifthepredicateaccuratelydescribesthe referent ofthesubject

  25. Proposition • Propositions – usuallydescribedintermsoftruthconditions • Often a predicatecontains, inaddition to a verb, preposition, or adjective, one or more arguments • Arguments - elementswhich are needed to completethemeaningof a predicate: theybringthepredicatecloser to expressing a completeproposition (Theball hit Mary: theverbhastwoarguments: directobjectandsubject)

  26. Logicalwords • Theprincipleofcompositionalityapplies to more complexsentencesmadebycombiningsimplersentences • Sentencesmaybemodifiedandconnectedusingsuchwords as not, and, or

  27. Logicalwords • Themeaningsofthesewords – traditionallyexplainedintermsofthetruthconditions (e.g. the word notreversesthetruthconditionsof a sentence): thesentence a is trueif, andonlyif, b is false, and vice versa • A) Thecat is underthe table. • B) Thecat is notunderthe table.

  28. Logicalwords • A sentence madebyjoiningtwosentenceswithandis trueifbothcomponentsentences are true: • John ran downthe street andMary hit theball. • A sentence which is madebyjoiningtwosentenceswithor is trueif at least one ofthecomponentsentences is true: • John ran downthe street or Mary hit theball.

  29. Logicalwords • Thetraditionalgoaloflogic is to explainwhatpatternsofreasoning are valid, andthewordsnot, andandor are especiallyimportant for this

  30. Adjectives • Manyadjectivesdisplaythepropertyofvagueness • A word is vagueif it has a single, general meaningwhichbecomes more specificin a particularcontextof use • Adjectiveswhichrelate to a scale are vaguewhenthey do notmention a particularvalue on thescale (e.g. old); • E.g. good: a gooddeed(morallygood); agoodpie(tasty); goodwalkingshoes – appropriate for a given use)

  31. Vagueness vs. polysemy • It is oftendifficult to distinguishvaguenessfrompolysemy • Polysemouswordshavemultipledifferent, but related, meanings; vagueness, incontrast, describes a single general meaningwhichbecomes more specificin a particularcontextof use • Since it involves more than one meaning, polysemy is a kindofambiguity, but vagueness is not

  32. Modality • Modalityrefers to aspectsofmeaningwhichcausesentencestobeaboutthenon-actual – i.e. about alternative possibilities for how thingscouldbe • John is kind to animals. • Johnshouldbekind to animals.

  33. Modality • Modalitycanbeexpressedthrough a varietyofgrammaticalcategories: modal auxiliaries (should, must, can), nouns (possibility, necessity, requirement), adjectives (possible, necessary, probable)

  34. Modality • I must haveleftmykeysinthe car. • If I had droppedmykeys on myway to the car, theywouldbe on thesteps or on the street now. • It is a requirementofthisuniversitythateveryonestudyArmenian. • Sincethekeysaren’t on the street, it is probablethatthey are inthe car.

  35. Modality • Possibleworldshelpexplainthesemanticsofmodalsbecausethey provide a wayoftalkingabout alternative possibilities • Theability to imagine alternative waysthatthe world couldbe – alternative possibleworlds – anessentialpartofthe human capacity to use language

  36. Modality • Epistemicmodalsinvolve reference to factsthatweknow (I must haveleftmykeysinthe car) • Deonticmodals(Guestsshouldleavetheirkeysinthe car); • Modalswhich are aboutrules, rightandwrong, obligationsetc. are known as deonticmodals

  37. Tenseandaspect • Tenseandaspect – semanticcategorieshaving to do with time • Theymaylead to a sentence beingabout past or future, notonlythepresent • Aspectrefers to featuresoflanguagewhichdescribe how eventsunfoldin time, like theEnglish progressive: • John is drawing a picture. • Ben hasfallenasleep.

  38. Aspectualclasses • Statives – sentenceswhichdescribestates, whilenon-stative sentencescanbecalledeventive • Eventivescanbefurtherclassified as achievements, activities, andaccomplishments

  39. Semanticsinthelaw • Semanticscanplay a role intheinterpretationoflegislation • Case: RaymondMoskal, who livedinPennsylvania, would buy usedautomobiles, set backthemilometers, sendtheinaccuratemileagereadings to Virginiaalongwithotherrequiredinformation, andreceive new titlesfromVirginiawiththeincorrectmileage. He wouldthensellthecars for inflatedprices to unsuspectingcustomers. He wasprosecutedandconvicted for violating a statute thatprohibitstheinterstatetransportationof ‘falselymade’ securities. Inshort, Moskal got real titlesthatcontainedfalseinformation.

  40. Semanticsinthelaw • Legislation: • Whoever, withunlawful or fraudulentintent, transportsininterstateorforeigncommerceanyfalselymade, forged, altered, orcounterfeitedsecuritiesortaxstamps, knowingthe same to havebeenfalselymade, forged, altered, or counterfeited…Shallbefinedunderthis title or imprisonednot more than ten years, or both. (18 USC &2314 (2001)

  41. Semanticsinthelaw • The US Supreme Court agreedthatMoskalcouldbepunishedunderthislaw, but JusticeScaliadissented for tworeasonsbased on themeaningofthephrasefalselymade. • One reason had to do withthehistoricalmeaningofthephrasefalselymadein legal documentsandtheother had to do withitsordinarymeaning.

  42. Semanticsinthelaw • JusticeScaliashowedthatinthe 100 yearsup to 1939, whenthe statute waswritten, legal documents had usedfalselymadeto mean ‘forged’ or ‘counterfeit’ • Thus, it seemsthatthemeaningofthiscrucialphrase had changed, at leastwithinthe world oflaw, betweenthe time thelawwaswrittenandthetime it was applied to Moskal’

  43. Semanticsinthelaw • Scalia’s other argument wasthatthephrasefalselymade, initsordinarymeaning, includesonlythingsthat are counterfeit, not real documentsthat are made to containfalseinformation • SolanconcludedthatScalia’s ordinarymeaning argument is wrong • He showsthatfalselymadetypicallymeans ‘made to includefalseinformation’ as in“(Whenfalselymade, thisaccusation (childabuse) canbeenormouslydestructive”

  44. Semanticsinthelaw • Inotherwords, a falselymadeaccusationmeansthattheaccusationcontainedfalseinformation, andSolanassumesbyanalogythatafalselymade car title wouldbe a car title containingfalseinformation

  45. Semanticsinthelaw • Do youagreewithJusticeScalia or themajority? • Howconvincing do youfindScalia’s historical argument? • Do youthinkthatSolan is correctthatfalselymademeansthe same thingwhen applied to anaccusationandwhen applied to a document? Isa falselymadecar title a counterfeit car title or a car title containingfalseinformation?

  46. Semanticsinthelaw • What do youthinkofSolan’s strategyoflooking at a databaseofnewspapercolumns to determinetheordinarymeaningof a controversialphrase?

  47. Semanticssummary • Twomainbranches: lexicalsemanticsandcompositionalsemantics • Lexicalsemantics: Meaningofwords • Compositionalsemanticsfocuses on theprocessof building up more complexmeaningsfromsimplerones

  48. Pragmatics: meaningandcontext • Pragmaticsconcernstherelationshipbetweencontextof use and sentence meaning, andtherelationshipsamongsentencemeaning, contextof use, andspeaker’s meaning

  49. Indexicality, context-dependency, andanaphora • Indexicals (deictics) – wordswhosemeaningsdependdirectly on thecontextof use (e.g. I, you, here, now) • Indexicality (deixis) • Theclassicdeictics – strictlytied to thecontextof use • Otherwords – more flexible; sometimesgettheirmeaningfromthecontextof use, but notalways

  50. Anaphora • A. Do youseethatbabygirloverthere? She is cute. • Whena word or phrasepicksupitsmeaningfrom some otherpieceoflanguagenearby, therelationshipbetweenthetwo – anaphora • A word whichgetsitsmeaninginthisway – ananaphor, andthepieceoflanguagewhichgivestheanaphoritsmeaning – itsantecedent

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