Semantics: Meaning Making
‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you! ‘ ‘I don't know what you mean by "glory",’Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant “there's a nice knock-down argument for you” !’ ‘But "glory" doesn't mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,' said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
Two main areas of semantics • The meaning of morphemes and words: lexical semantics • The meaning of phrases and sentences: sentential semantics Speakers agree upon meanings and are not free to change or redefine it like Humpty Dumpty!
Semantic Properties • Pieces of information on which speakers of a language agree • The assassin killed Mr. Humphrey Important person murderer, human
A single semantic property may be a part of many words tigress, actress, doe, mare, girl, maiden, debutante, vixen, ewe, cow, nurse (?) FEMALE doctor, dean, bachelor, professor, child, baby, parent HUMAN child, baby, infant, girl, boy, youth, adolescent YOUTH/NOT ADULT father, uncle, bachelor, man MALE
darken, kill, uglify, feed, sink CAUSE walk, run, plod, canter, trot, glide, skip MOVE hit, kiss, touch, push, pinch, kicks CONTACT smell, hear, feel, touch, taste SENSE build, imagine, make, design CREATE
Finer distinctions • Additional semantic properties make for the finer distinctions in meaning: move : walk, run, plod, trot, glide, stalk etc. move+ slow : plod move+ menace : stalk
Evidence for semantic properties • Speech errors or slips of the tongue – bridge of the nose/neck – when my gums/tongues bled – he came too late/early – Mary was young/early – that’s a horse of another colour/race – he has to pay her alimony/rent – the lady with the dachshund/Volkswagen
Dubya • “The law I sign today directs new funds... to the task of collecting vital intelligence... on weapons of mass production .” • And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. AND I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq. • We out to make the pie higher. • And there is distrust in Washington…And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work har to try and elevate it.
Lexicon • our mental dictionary, where we store our knowledge of words cat /k h ǽt Variation in space (regional differences): braces, suspenders Variation in time (historical change) – hound, dog (OE docga, Latin, canis) /k ǽt
Lexicon and semantic properties • Lexicon stores amongst other information, the semantic properties of morphemes and words that share a semantic property are part of a semantic class • And semantic classes may intersect – Female, young > girl (+human), filly (+equine) • Nouns : count vs. mass, abstract vs. concrete
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- Spring '16
- Ravi Banavar
- Semantics, a. Sita