Chapter 5 Semantics

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					Chapter 5 Semantics

     The First Week
               Key points:
 Definitionof semantics
 Conceptual approach
 Behaviorist approach
 Contextual approach
 Meaning as concept
 Meaning as behavior
 Meaning as context
 Meaning as truth conditions
 5.1 Definition of Semantics
 Semantics  is the branch of
 linguistics which studies meaning
 in language.
 (1)  Even Einstein could have solved the
 It is not a good example to take in the
  question of semantics.
 Because this meaning study of the sentence
  actually spills over into pragmatics, rather
  than semantics. Semantic study of meaning
  does not concern extra or external elements.
  5.2 Approaches to Meaning
 The  definition of meaning differs from
  theories to theories, from linguists to
 Here are some of the important
  interpretations of meaning:
   5.2.1 Meaning as naming
 This view that the meaning of an
  expression is what it refers to, or
  names, is often called referential
  theory or naming theory.
 It was proposed by the ancient Greek
  scholar Plato.
 According  to this theory, the linguistic
 forms or symbols, in other words, the
 words used in a language are taken to be
 labels of the objects they stand for. So the
 meaning of a word is just the for the object
 or referent in the real world.
     Problems with the theory:
1. This theory seems applicable to
   nouns visible in the world only.
2. There are nouns which denote
   things that do not exist in the real
   5.2.2 Meaning as concept
 Ogden    and Richards suggested a model---
  semantic triangle (Figure1) illustrating the
  view of meaning as concept.
 It is also called conceptual approach which
  believes the meaning of a linguistic
  expression is the concept, or idea or
  impression formed in the mind.
    Figure 1: Semantic Triangle
               Thought (concept)

       ---------------------------------------
 Symbol                                    Referent
  (the word)                              (the object)
    Comments on the theory:

 There  is no problem with the theory. It is
  the perfect theory in the field.
 We may testify this by the process of
  children’s language acquisition.
  5.2.3 Meaning as behavior
 This  theory was proposed by the American
  linguist L. Bloomfield by the well-known
  story of Jack and Jill.
 The theory believes that the meaning of a
  word is defined by observable behaviors.
  Or the meaning of a linguistic expression
  relies on or comes from the consequences
  of the behaviors triggered by the
  expression, which clearly draws on
       Jill              Jack

   S          r…………….s          R
       Problems with the theory:
 IfJack had fetched some water for Jill, the
  meaning of “I’m thirsty” turned up as “She
  wants to drink water rather than eat the
  apple”. The decoding went on the wrong
  tracks. The theory failed to explain this
   5.2.4 Meaning as context

 The  theory was proposed by British
  linguist John R. Firth.
 The theory believes that the meaning
  depends on both of the linguistic and
  situational contexts.
 Ex.1. I don’t like her. She’s tall and thin
  and moves like a crane.---impression of
 Ex.2. I do like her. She’s tall and thin and
  moves like a crane.---impression of
        Two kinds of context
 Tow  kinds of context are recognized: a
 linguistic context and a situational context.
 Every utterance occurs in a particular
 spatio-temporal situation. Each utterance
 is limited by various factors of the
 situational context. These factors include:
    Factors that limit the meaning of
   (i) the setting (formal, informal,…)
   (ii) the speaker and hearer (relationship,
   (iii) the activities they are engaged in at the time
   (iv) the presence or absence of other
    participants (relationship, position…)
   (v) the presence of various external objects and
   The linguistic context alone is the weaker form of
    contextual views.
5.2.5 Meaning as truth conditions
 The  meaning of a word or expression is
  determined by the truth conditions of the
  word, Such an approach to meaning is
  called truth-conditional theory\semantics.
 S is true if and only if P. S is a sentence; P
  is a set of conditions guaranteeing the
  truth of S.
 Peter is married.
 The meaning of the sentence comes out
  this way: There is an individual called
  Peter, a social institution called marriage,
  and Peter is involved in the state of
 Theproblem with the theory is it is only
 employed to declaratives. Can you smoke
 has no truth condition, or truth value.
 I.Define the following terms briefly:
(1) semantics
(2) naming theory
(3) behaviorist theory
(4) conceptual theory
 2. Explain the semantic ambiguity of the
  following sentences by providing two or
  more sentences that paraphrase the
  multiple meaning. Example: She can’t
  bear children can mean either She can’t
  give birth to children or She can’t
  tolerate children.
 (1) He waited by the bank.
 (2) We bought her dog biscuits.
 (3) He saw her drawing pencils.

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