5.1 What is Semantics
The subject concerning the study of meaning is called Semantics. More specifically, Semantics is the study of the meaning of linguistic units, words and sentences in particular.
Philosophy, Psychology and linguistics all claim a deep interest in semantics. The Philosophers are interested in understanding the relations between linguistic expression and the phenomena in the world to which they refer and evaluating the condition of truth and falsehood of such expressions. The psychologists claim a deep interest in understanding the human mind through language. In what fellows we will discuss Semantic from the linguistic perpective. That’s
linguists are concerned with the analysis and description of the meaning(literal) of linguistic expression.
5.2 Meanings of “meaning”
It is not an easy job to define what meaning is. Here some interpretations.
5.2.1 Referential theory？指称论？ or
This is a very popular theory. According to this theory, there is a direct relation between language and reality/a linguistic form and the thing it refers to. In the case of proper noun and definite noun phrases, this is especially true. When we say “The most influential
linguist Noam Chomsky teaches at MIT, we do use “the most influential linguist” and “Noam Chomsky” to mean a particular person, and “MTT” a particular institution of higher learning.
5.2.2 The realism？唯实主义论？ VS the
The realists hold that all things called by the same name have some common property, that is , there is some kind of reality or set of
empirical features that establishes whether a given thing will be called a river or a chair. Contrary to this, the nominalists argue that rivers or chairs in the real world have nothing in common other than the name that by
convention we have learned to apply to them.
5.2.3 Conceptualism？概念论？ or mentalism
Following F De Saussure’s “sign” theory, the
linguistic sign is said to consist of a signifier and signified, i.e a sound image and a concept, linked by a psychological “associative”bond.
Inspired by the medieval grammarian, Dgden and Richards present the classic“Semantic triangle”, as manifested by the following diagram, in which, the Symbol or form refers to the linguistic elements (word, sentence, etc), the referent？所指事物，参考对象？ refers to
the object in the world of experience, and thought or reference？所指，参照？ refers to
the concept. Thus, the symbol of a word signified “things” by virtue of the “concept” associated the form of the word in the minds of the speaker of the language, and the concept looked at from this point of view is the meaning of the word.
Contextualism is based on the presumption that one can derive meaning from or reduce it to observable context. Two kinds of context are recognized the situational context and linguistic context.
Every utterance occurs in a particular spatiotemporal situation, so the following factors are related to the situational context: The speaker and the hearer
The actions they are performing at the time Various external objects and events Deictic features
Now, take “It is a difficult operation” as an instance. The word “operation” here is polysemic word; its exact meaning depends on the situation in which it is used, it may mean 1 surgical operation performed on a human being or animal;2 a financial transaction; 3 the way a machine works 4 a strategic
movement that trops or ships？军事行动或作
The linguistic context is another aspect of contextualism, It is concerned only with the
probability of one word’s co---occurrence or
collocation with another, which forms part of the “meaning”, and an important factor in communication. For example, in the following sentences, the meaning of the word “get” depends, on the meaning of the word with which it goes together in an utterance: 1 I got a letter from my sister
2 Don’t answer the telephone, I’ll get it
3 I don’t get your point
4 He got a new skirt for his daughter when he went shopping yesterday.
Behaviourists attempt to interpret the meaning of linguistic form as “ the situation in which the speakers utters it and the response it calls forth in the hearer”. This theory is somewhat close to contextualism but linked with the psychological interest. It is better illustrated by Bloomfield’s stimulus—reaction
model as follows
S---------r … s---------R
When Jill sees an apple and if she wants to have it, she has first received a stimulus (S)and produced a verbal reaction(r) to Jack. The sound waves resulting from he speech create a
verbal stimulus (s)for Jack, which results in non---verbal reaction (R) for getting the apple.
5.3 Seven types of meaning
Following a functional approach, Leech categorizes meaning into seven types, namely, conceptual/denotative; connotative;
social/stylistic; affective; reflective; collocative; thematic meanings.
5.3.1 Conceptual or denotative meaning Conceptual or denotative meaning is the basic meaning in communication. It is the same to different persons. It involves the relationship between a linguistic unit (especially a lexical item) and the
non---linguistic entities to which it refers. For instance, if we talk about a “chair” and there is no actual chair around us to see, we can give the denotative definition: “It is a piece of furniture for one person to sit on.” Having a back and , usually four legs. This denotative meaning of the word “chair” can be
understood but all English---Speaking people. The denotative meaning of a word is its definition given in a dictionary. It is that aspect of lexical meaning which makes
5.3.2 Connotative meaning
Connotative meaning refers to the emotional association which a word or a phrase suggests in one’s mind. It is the supplementary value which is added to the purely denotative meaning of a word, For instance, the denotative meaning of the word “mother” is “female parent” but it generally connotes love, care and tenderness. The word “woman” denotes “frail”, “prone to tears”(爱哭),
“emotional”, “gentle” “compassionate” “hard---working” other examples.？易动感情
January (the first month of the year):cold weather, central heating; the New Year Christmas
The connotative meaning is different to different people in terms of age, time and country pigheaded.
5.3.3 Social / stylistic meaning
Social meaning conveys the social
circumstances of language use.
Martin Joos provided one of the most common class cation pf speech styles using the
criterion of formality and he recognized five different levels of formality, each implying different forms of speech to fit separate functions.
1 Oratorical or frozen ;
2 Deliberate or formal;
The linguistic forms, which express the sane idea, may be used in different styles. For example
1 Visitors should make their way at once to the upper floor by way of the staircase 2 Visitors should go up the stairs at once. 3 Would you mind gong upstairs right away. 4 Time you all went upstairs now.
5 Up you go, chaps.
5.3.4 Affective meaning
Affective meaning is concerned with the expression of feelings and attitudes of the speaker or writer. Affective meaning is usually e
1 through conceptual meaning e.g
You are a vicious tyrant and I hate you for
2 through connocative meaning e.g
That fellow is an ass.
3 through tones. E.g
I’m terribly sorry to interrupt; but I wonder if you would be so kind as to lower your voice a little.
The purpose is to ask sb to speak in a low voice. If it is said in an ordinary tone, it sounds that the speaker is polite; If it is said in an ironic way, it shows that the speaker is unhappy.
4 through interjection
5 through syntactic structures
Will you belt up?
Belt up =stop talking
5.3.5 Reflective meaning (联想意义)
1 taboo words Sex cock intercourse
excretion urinate---go to the toilet
2 Euphemism to lie =to distort the fact
grave =resting place
die---passaway--- breathe one’s last ---go west
cease to thing---decrease
5.3.6 Collocative meaning
According to Leech, the meaning which is appropriate in certain context is referred to as collcative meaning. Some words (mainly some synonyms) are different in their collocation hence different in their meaning although they have the same basic meaning.
Pretty : girl boy woman flower garden colour village
Handsome: boy man car vessel overcoat airliner typewriter
Pretty and handsome are synonymous but they differ in their collocation.
5.3.7 Thematic meaning？主题意义？
What is communicated by the way in which the message is organized in terms of order and emphsis.？指说话者的安排来传递的一种意