Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Meeting 1 (What is semantics?)
What is Semantics?
Wordings (words & structures)
A tri-stratal semiotic system of language
When the lights are out, they are invisible.
When the stars are out, they are visible.
There are three types of context:
Situational context what the speakers know about what they can see around the world. 2)
Background knowledge context what the speakers know about another in the world. 3)
Co-textual context what the speakers know about what they have been saying Semantics investigates both denotative and connotative meanings. For example: Friday 13th Denotative meaning the day between 12 and 14
Connotative meaning the bad day, the sacral day
A meaning of meaning is an idea represented by a word.
Plant sale a sale of plants (trees/flowers/etc.)
Garage sale a family sells their furniture (second hand furniture) in the garage when they want to move Baby sale a sale of baby clothes, pampers/diapers, or baby equipment
Semantics is the study of meaning, it is one branch of linguistics dealing with the meaning of words, phrases and sentences. It is a wide subject within the general study of language. An understanding of semantics is essential to the study of language acquisition (how language users acquire a sense of meaning, as speakers and writers, listeners and readers) and of language change (how meanings alter over time). It is important for understanding language in social contexts, as these are likely to affect meaning, and for understanding varieties of English and effects of style. It is thus one of the most fundamental concepts in linguistics. The study of semantics includes the study of how meaning is constructed, interpreted, clarified, obscured, illustrated, simplified negotiated, contradicted and paraphrased. Semantics is the study of the meaning of linguistic expressions. The language can be a natural language, such as English or Navajo, or an artificial language, like a computer programming language. Meaning in natural languages is mainly studied by linguists. In fact, semantics is one of the main branches of contemporary linguistics. Theoretical computer scientists and logicians think about artificial languages. In some areas of computer science, these divisions are crossed. In machine translation, for instance, computer scientists may want to relate natural language texts to abstract representations of their meanings; to do this, they have to design artificial languages for representing meanings. There are strong connections to philosophy. Earlier in this century, much work in semantics was done by philosophers, and some important work is still done by philosophers. Anyone who speaks a language has a truly amazing capacity to reason about the meanings of texts. Take, for instance, the sentence (S) I can't untie that knot with one hand.
Even though you have probably never seen this sentence, you can easily see things like the following: 1)
The sentence is about the abilities of whoever spoke or wrote it. (Call this person the speaker.) 2)
It's also about a knot, maybe one that the speaker is pointing at. 3)
The sentence denies that the speaker has a certain ability. (This is the contribution of the word `can't'.) 4)
Untying is a way of making something not tied.
The sentence doesn't mean that the knot has one hand; it has to do with how many hands are used to do the untying. The meaning of a sentence is not just an unordered heap of the meanings of its words. If that were true, then `Cowboys ride horses' and `Horses ride cowboys' would mean the same thing. So we need to think about arrangements of meanings. Here is an arrangement that seems to bring out the relationships of the meanings in sentence (S). Not [ I [ Able [ [ [Make [Not [Tied]]] [That knot ] ] [With One...
References: Aitchison, J. (1997) The Language Web, pp. 61 - 78; Cambridge; ISBN 0-521-57475-7
Crystal, D. (1987) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, pp. 100 - 107; Cambridge; ISBN 0-521-42443-7
Crystal, D. (1995) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, pp. 138, 156 - 170; Cambridge; ISBN 0-521-59655-6
Potter, S. (1950) Our Language, pp. 104 - 116; Penguin; ISBN 0-14-02-0227-7
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