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Semantics vs. pragmatics

Introduction

The distinction between semantics and pragmatics has received a lot of bad press in recent years. It has been claimed to be faulty, confused, or even nonexistent. However, these claims are based on is conceptions of what the distinction is and of what it takes to show there to be something wrong with it. As I see it, the semantic-pragmatic distinction fundamentally concerns two types of information associated with an utterance of a sentence. Semantic information is encoded in the sentence; pragmatic information is generated by, or at least made relevant by, the act of uttering the sentence. This explains the oddity of such pragmatic contradictions as "I am not speaking" and "It is raining but I don't believe it." In "The Semantics-Pragmatics Distinction: What It Is and Why It Matters" (Bach 1999a), I develop this conception of the distinction and contrast it with alternatives. Here I will try to clarify the difference between them ,so that you know what are these subfields of linguistics and what their major concerns .

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Table of contents :

Introduction …………………………………2

1.What is pragmatics ?......................................4

1.1 Structural ambiguity …………………….5

1.2 Etymology ………………………….6

1.3 Areas of interest …………………….6

What is Semantics ?...............................7

2. What are the differences between semantics and pragmatics ?..............8

2.1 Differences in Meaning……………….9

2.2 Idioms and Miscommunications………..10

Conclusion …………..11

References …………………12

What is pragmatics ?

Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. It encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, linguistics and anthropology. pragmatics studies how the transmission of meaning depends not only on structural and linguistic knowledge (e.g., grammar, lexicon, etc.) of the speaker and listener, but also on the context of the utterance, any pre-existing knowledge about those involved, the inferred intent of the speaker, and other factors. In this respect, pragmatics explains how language users are able to overcome apparent ambiguity, since meaning relies on the manner, place, time etc. of an utterance. The ability to understand another speaker's intended meaning is called pragmatic competence.

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Structural ambiguity:

The sentence "You have a green light" is ambiguous. Without knowing the context, the identity of the speaker, and his or her intent, it is difficult to infer the meaning with confidence. For example: It could mean that you have green ambient lighting.

It could mean that you have a green light while driving your car. It could mean that you can go ahead with the project.
It could mean that your body has a green glow.
It could mean that you possess a light bulb that is tinted green. Similarly, the sentence "Sherlock saw the man with binoculars" could mean that Sherlock observed the man by using binoculars, or it could mean that Sherlock observed a man who was holding binoculars. The meaning of the sentence depends on an understanding of the context and the speaker's intent. As defined in linguistics, a sentence is an abstract entity — a string of words divorced from non-linguistic context — as opposed to an utterance, which is a concrete example of a speech act in a specific context. The closer conscious subjects stick to common words, idioms, phrasings, and topics, the more easily others can surmise their meaning; the further they stray from common expressions and topics, the wider the variations in interpretations. This suggests that sentences do not have meaning intrinsically; there is not a...
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