I. Definition of semantics
- Semantics is the study of meaning. More specifically, semantics is the study of the meaning of linguistic units, words and sentences in particular.
- remains the least known area in linguistics
II. The meaning of “meaning”
- C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards put forward this issue in the book The Meaning of Meaning in 1923.
- 7 types of meaning are recognized by Geoffrey Leech (1974) in his semantics.
- Conceptual meaning(denotative meaning)概念意义
2. Connotative meaning内涵意义
3. Social meaning社会意义
4. Affective meaning情感意义
5. Reflected meaning反映意义
6. Collocative meaning搭配意义
7. Thematic meaning主题意义
III. The referential theory
- The theory of meaning which relates the meaning of a word to the thing it refers to, or it stands for.
- Problems of referential theory:
- There is something behind the concrete thing we can see with our eyes.
- There are many words that do not have a reference. E.g. dinosaur, ghost, God
- It is argued that the relation between a word and its reference is not direct, but is mediated by concept (Odgen and Richards). → The Semantic Triangle
IV. Semantic relations
I) Three kinds of semantic relations among words
i) Synonymy: the sameness relation
- Absolute synonymy is very rare. The so-called synonyms are all context dependent.
- Differ in style, connotation and sometimes dialectal differences
ii) Antonymy: oppositeness relation
Øgradable antonymy 程度/等级反义: good&bad, big&small
Øcomplementary antonymy 互补反义: male&female, innocent&guilty, present&absent
Øconverse antonymy 反向反义（两者互为存在）buy&sell, teacher&student
iii) Hyponymy-a matter of class membership 上下义现象
- Superordinate上位词, hyponym下位词, co-hyponyms同下位词
- ØA superordinate may be a superordinate to itself.
ØA superordinate may be missing.
ØHyponyms may also be missing.
Polysemy refers to a word that has two or more related meanings. 一词多义
- A single form has two or more entirely distinct meanings.
- Homophones need not have identical spellings
e.g. write-right piece-peace flower- flour
II) Semantic relations involving sentences
- Paraphrase, entailment, contradiction
V. Componential analysis (semantic decomposition)
- Definition: The analysis of lexical items in terms of semantic features or semantic components
- Boy: [+Human], [-Adult], [+Male]
- The componential analysis may explain sense relations between words or sentences.
1. Polysemous words
2. Some semantic components are seen as binary taxonomies. 二元分类
3. Words whose semantic components are difficult to ascertain.