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Semantics

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Semantics

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  1. Semantics

  2. The study of meaning • What is ‘meaning’? • To what extent is it a linguistic matter? • what bits of meaning are given to us directly by the forms of the language? • What kind of theory of meaning is best suited to the linguistic facts?

  3. The study of meaning is called semantics and semantics is a branch of linguistics.

  4. Meaning and Language Meaning is connected to language via: • the lexicon • grammar Also important is: • what we do with language

  5. Grammar and meaning • Although they are often distinct from each other, they come together in the category of tense. • Tense is the grammaticalization of time. • While time is an aspect of physics and psychology, tense is the way we express time in grammar. • Only some languages build the time distinctions into the grammar.

  6. Not all languages have a tense system but all have a way of expressing time. Example: in Chinese there is no tense system expressed by the verb but time is expressed by the words associated to the verb. How many tenses do we have in English? Only two! present and past The future tense is expressed by present forms of the verbs that carry different meanings. For example: • I’m buying a new car • I’m going to buy a new car. • I will buy a new car. • I travel to Rome with the 8 o’clock train tomorrow. Even the past tense forms are not confined to past events. • e.g. If I spoke better French, I could get a job in Paris.

  7. There is no future tense. What is tense? Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines tense as: Any of the forms of a verb that may be used to show the time of the action or state expressed by the verb. Now what is time? Time is a universal concept with three divisions: present, past and future.

  8. Now look at the forms of the verb. Each main verb in English language has six different forms. e.g. Go: 1. Go = Base form2. go = general present3. goes = 3rd person singular4. went = past 5. going = present participle6. gone = past participle All the above six forms refer either to present time or to past time. There is no form of the verb which can refer to future time. Then how can we say that there is future tense? There is no future tense, rather we show future aspect with certain auxiliary verbs or with the help of present tense.

  9. In other words, whether a language has 2, 3 or more tenses to express time, its speakers don’t have the slightest difficulty in talking about any desired point in time, past, present or future.

  10. Conceptual versus associative • Give a definition of the word diet. (e.g. I decided to go on a diet) • 1. the food that you eat and drink regularly. • 2. a limited variety of food that you eat for medical reasons or because you want to loose weight. • (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

  11. Conceptual meaning refers to the essential components of meaning in relation to the literal use of a word. (also called denotation) • Associative meaning is a set of subjective, cultural and/or emotional associations in addition to the literal meaning of a word. It’s an emotional association with a word. (also called connotation)

  12. Semantics is mainly concerned with the conceptual meaning of words and less concerned with its associative meaning. • It is often useful to avoid words with strong connotations when striving to achieve a neutral point of view. A desire for more positive connotations is one of the main reasons for using euphemisms.

  13. What is a euphemism? • A euphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling to the listener than the word or phrase it replaces, or in the case of doublespeak to make it less troublesome for the speaker.

  14. Guess the words missing

  15. Colourless green ideas sleep furiously • Chomsky's notorious sentence is anomalous… • why? • It follows the rules of English grammar but it is not meaningful.

  16. Differenciating meaning • The kinds of nouns which can be subjects of the verb sleep must have specific semantic features. • A very general feature can be ‘animate being’ (+ animate) or +human, -human, +male, -male. • They represent the basic features in differenciating the meaning of each word. • E.g. That _______ works in a bank. • N (+human)

  17. Differenciating meaning, according to semantic features, is not always easy, especially if we try to distinguish words such as advice, warning, etc.

  18. Semantic roles • Instead of considering a word like a container of meaning we can look at the role it performes in a sentence. • My sister rang the bell with her elbow • agent theme instrument • An agent of an action can be human or non human. (e.g. the cat rang the bell, the wind blew the ball away, curiosity killed the cat)

  19. Mary saw a mosquito on the wall • experiencerthemelocation • And she hit the bug with the magazine. • agentthemeinstrument • She handed the magazine back to George • agentthemegoal • The role of experiencer refers to the entity who has a feeling or a state.

  20. The meaning of a sentence depends on at least 2 things. • The meaning of the words in the sentence. • The grammatical structure of the sentence.

  21. Lexical semantics • It is the study of word meanings. • It deals not only with meanings of individual words, but also with the way in which the meanings of different words are related.

  22. Lexical meanings • sense relations synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy … • component features: bachelor = [+male, -married] • meaning and grammar • putting meanings together

  23. Definitions are not sufficient to explain meaning. • The stereotype theory states that meaning makes sense to us when it matches the idea or the object we carry in our heads.

  24. Can you write a definition of the word dog?

  25. dog /dog/ noun 1 [C] an animal with four legs and a tail, often kept as a pet or trained for work, for example hunting or guarding buildings. There are many types of dog, some of which are wild: Itook the dog for a walk. I could hear a dog barking.dog food - guard dogs - a dog and her puppies - see also guide dog, gun dog, hearing dog, lapdog, prairie dog, sheepdog, sniffer dog, tracker dog • Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

  26. dodgyadj. (BrE informal)1. seeming or likely to be dishonest. SYN Suspicious: He made a lot of money using some very dodgy methods. I don’t want to get involved into anything dodgy.2. not working well, not in good conditions: I can’t play, I’ve got a dodgy knee.3. involving risk, danger or difficulty. If you get into any dodgy situation call me.

  27. Synonymy • Synonymymeansthattwo or more wordshave the samemeaning. • begin/start • below/beneath/underneath • Words do nothavemeaning in isolation • Bewarethatevenwhenwords in isolationhave the samemeaning, theymostoftenhavedifferentassociations or collocations

  28. Look at the following examples a. The baby started/began to cry as soon as they had left. b. *I couldn’t begin the car; the battery was flat. Two words may be close in meaning and yet not collocate with the same items. Native speakers accept A as correct but not B

  29. Fill the matrix

  30. Antonymy • Antonyms are words which have opposite meaning. • The water is neither hot nor ______. • The table is neither clean nor _______. • The door is neither open nor _______. • Janet is neither married nor ________. • My friend is neither male nor _______. • Your statement is neither true nor ______. • Her results are neither good nor ______.

  31. _ • The water is neither hot nor cold. • The table is neither clean nor dirty. • The door is neither open nor shut. • Janet is neither married nor single. • My friend is neither male nor female. • Your statement is neither true nor false. • Her results are neither good nor bad.

  32. Gradable antonyms (e.g. hot/cold – tepid, warm, cool) • Non-gradable antonyms (e.g. true/false, dead/alive) • Reverses (e.g. tie/untie, lock/unlock) • When a word doesn’t mean the opposite, but the reverse. Unlock doesn’t mean ‘not lock’ but the ‘reverse of lock.’

  33. A word may have different opposites in different contexts. • light bag ______ bag • light wind ______ wind • light colours ______ colours • rough sea ______ sea • rough texture ______ texture • rough area ______ area • rough person ______ person • rough calculation ______ calculation

  34. Take a look! • light bag heavy bag • light wind strong wind • light colours dark colours • rough sea calm sea • rough texture smooth texture • rough area quiet area • rough person gentle person • rough calculation precise calculation

  35. Hyponymy indicates a relationship of inclusion between words.

  36. Prototypes • The concept of prototype helps explaining the meaning of certain words. • It is an hyponym that best resembles the idea of the superordinate. • e.g. a robin is considered a prototype of bird.

  37. Homonymy 1. I’m just off to the bank to deposit a cheque. 2. The bank was steep and overgrown. Bank 1 e 2 are homonyms. They have the same form but different meanings.

  38. Polysemy • They met at the foot of the mountain. • He hurt his foot. • There’s a diagram at the foot of the page. or • She’s head of the department. • I’ll meet you at the head of the valley. • Have you hurt your head? • Foot and head have something about their meaning that carries over from one example to the next. • They are polysemous. Foot is a single lexical item with multiple senses. • There is no necessary implication that any one sense is primary.

  39. How many meanings or senses do you know for the following English words? top page button ring the top of the volcano the top of the cupboard the top of the crop the sports pages page of honour pageboy the buttons of a jacket the TV button a policeman’s button a gold ring to hit the ring (basketball) circus ring

  40. Metonymy A type of relation between words based simply on a close connection in everyday experience • Container-content relationship (can/juice) • Whole-part relationship (car/wheels) • Representative-symbolic relationship (king-crown) • E.g. He drank the whole bottle.

  41. Consider the following English words and decide whether they are best thought of in terms of homonymy or polysemy, and why. cap face row club way bed match plot - Try translating them into your native language. - Are there several possible translation equivalents?

  42. Key cap - polysemy face - polysemy row - homonymy (homographs) club - homonymy way - homonymy bed - polysemy match - homonymy plot - polysemy

  43. Consider the translatability of the word back. Which of the following sentences could be translated using the L2 word meaning the rear part of the human body? 1.She sat at the back of the class. 2. My back aches from all that work. 3. The index is in the back of the book. 4. I’m tired, I want to go back. 5. The back of the chair is broken. 6. The back of your jacket is stained. 7. Open the back of the camera to put the film in.

  44. Collocations • We know which words tend to occur with other words. • Some collocations are joined pairs: • salt and pepper • husband and wife • knife and fork

  45. Compositional meaning It is when the meaning of the phrase/sentence is the result of the meaning of the single words componing it So for example the first clause (as well as the second) of I got up on the wrong side of my bed, and therefore tripped over my shoes. has compositional meaning, because it's the literal sense. Therefore if you know the meaning of all the words, plus you have the syntactic parse, you can figure out what the whole construction means.

  46. But in • Watch out for the boss--he must have gotten out of bed on the wrong side. the meaning of the similar clause is non-compositional or metaphoric: it means something other than rolling out of bed on to the floor. • Re-edit = compositional meaning (“to pay again”) • Repay = non-compositional meaning (it doesn’t mean “to pay again”)

  47. Metaphorical meaning • The central meaning of a word may often be the basis of metaphorical extensions of a word. • Metaphors enable us to talk about one thing in terms of another. • Metaphors are useful in expanding existing concepts and creating new ones.