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SEMANTICS Overview - By: Hussein Ghunaim

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SEMANTICS Overview - By: Hussein Ghunaim Empty SEMANTICS Overview - By: Hussein Ghunaim

Post by Admin Tue Dec 11, 2007 10:48 pm


Prepared By: Hussein Sami Ghunaim

Semantics: Is the technical term used to refer to the study of meaning.

Approaches to meaning:
* The terms of study semantics approaches:
- Emotive meaning (cognitive)
- Reference - Sense
- Denotation - Connotation
- Symbol

- The direct relationship between a word and a thing in the meaning and the outside world.
Word  Thing

- We call this approach: “The REFERENCE Approach”.
Signifier  Signified

- This approach was presented by the traditional semanticists like (Plato).

- Naming Shortcomings:
1. This theory can be applied only on the visible (seen) things.
2. Things in the real-world have no clear-cut.

- Ostensive Definition: The definition of a word by pointing on its symbol in the real-world.

- The answer on the mentioned shortcomings:
 Things have shared qualities in common.

- There are two views of NAMING:
1. The REALIST view of NAMING:
Because things ‘e.g. CHAIRS’ are sharing some qualities, then we call them by a specific name ‘e.g. CHAIR’.

It is a part of NAMING approach that do not accept that things are sharing some qualities (has qualities in common).

- The difference between the NOMINALISTS & REALISTS:
* REALIST: The Semanticist who believes in NAMING and says that though things are different they have some qualities in common.
* NOMINALIST: The Semanticist who believes that things have nothing in common.
- Both of them (Nominalists & Realists) are the followers of NAMING approach.

- Final Comments:
1. There are names, things or creatures that do not exist actually in the real-world.
e.g.: Unicorn, العو , طنطل , الغول.
2. Things in the real-world do not exist in clear-cut sets. They are not similar in many qualities ‘aspects’.

There is no direct relationship between words & things in real-world.
- We call this approach also by: ‘MENTALISM’.

Figure 1: Conceptualism.

- The linguistic units go through ‘via’ concepts to get the meanings of things in real-world.
- There are two versions of this view:
1. The version of ‘de Saussure’:
- He wrote his book “Course of General Linguistic”.
- He said: “The signifiers are connected to one another by a CONCEPTUAL bond.

Figure 2: Sign, Signifier and signified.

\\\Sign: Linguistic units, Lexical items, sound…etc.
\\\Singifier: Sound, Linguistic units form.
e.g.: You say ‘cat’, then it goes through a ‘concept’, which it is in my mind, to come to me as the ‘cat’ that I know. So, the word ‘cat’ is the sign, and the concept is the signifier, and the signified thing is the animal ‘cat’ that I know.
- Any linguistic unit consists of a signifier and the signified. The signifier is the form of the linguistic unit it refers to something outside language, this thing outside language is called ‘signified’. The signifier and the signified are connected by a psychological [conceptual] bond.

2. The version of ‘Ogden & Richards’:
- Their book is: Meaning of meaning.
- There is no direct relation between the symbol [linguistic unit] and the REFERENT [things in the outside world], but the link is via THOUGHT or REFERENCE [Concept], the concept of our minds.

- They described the relation as a triangle, and called it ‘The Semiotic Triangle’:

Thought [Reference]

‘no direct link’
Symbol Referent

Figure 3: The semiotic Triangle.
- Conceptualism’s shortcomings:
* What ‘CONCEPT’ or ‘THOUGHT’ is??!!!
The concept is not an obvious or precise thing to talk about.
- This naïve question can also easily answered:
* That concept is a psychological one, that when we think of a name ‘thing’ we think of the concept and vice versa.


- This approach tries to look at the meaning through behaviors.
- One of its followers is ‘L. Bloomfield’ and he is the author of ‘Language’.
- Everything that we do is in response to STIMULI.
- Bloomfield said that he can apply this idea to meaning.
- This approach came as an answer to ‘MENTALISM’.
- We can explain the meaning of the linguistic units according to the context [situation] it uttered [said] in, by seeing what the STIMULUS is and what the RESPONSE is.

Figure 4: Stimulus - Response action.
e.g.: Jill is hungry, sees an apple and with use of language gets Jack to fetch it for her.

Figure 4: Two ways Stimulus - Response action.

- The problem with this approach:
This approach is only explains the [ready-made utterances] and can only be applied to these situations.

- Each utterance occurs in a specific place and specific time.
Place  Space
Time  Tempo\ral Spatiotemporal
- The elements of the context of situation:
1. The speaker – Hearer(s).
2. The various objects around us [external objects].
3. The shared knowledge of what has been said before.
4. The acceptance of the conventions [traditions / beliefs] of the speech-community.
5. The actions they both are performing. Theses actions affect the conversation subject.
* Note: The mentioned elements are non-linguistic elements.


- There are two aspects of meaning:
1. Sense 2. Reference
- Sense: is the complex relationship between linguistic elements [words – lexical items] within [inside] the language itself.
- Reference: Is the semantic relationship between linguistic elements and the outside world.
- Anything outside language is a reference.
- Reference presupposes ‘Existence’.
- In the following examples, sense and reference are related because we have a [male] and [female] in language [sense] and in the outside-world in REFERENCE.
[Cow – Bull] [ Ram – Ewe] [Stallion – Mare] [Hen – Cock]
- In some cases, the reference boundaries for certain words are not clear.
- Linguistic Relativity [Sapir – Whorf Hypothesis]:
* The feature of universe is detemined by our language [the language we speak].

- Connotation: The personal or social feelings / emotions / notions [ideas] about the reference of a particular word.

- Denotation: The semantic relationship between a word and what it denotes [refers] in the world [outside language].

- The sense of a word [lexical item] defined [determined] by its semantic relationship with other words in the language.

1. Paradigmatic relationship:
The semantic relationship between a word and other words that can replace it in the same context.
e.g.: I fear tigers.
dread lions
afraid dogs

2. Syntagmatic relationship:
The semantic relationship between a lexical item and other lexical items that occur [comes] with it.

- An instance of Paradigmatic relation between words.
e.g.: Sem. Field of Colors Sem. Field of Furniture

- An instance of SYNTAGMATIC relation between words.
- The probability of the occurrence of a lexical item [word] because of the occurrence of another word.
- If a word keeps with another word so this relation is called COLLOCATION.
e.g. [rancid butter] [blond hair] [teeth bite] [addled egg] [sour milk] [dog bark]
[cat mew] [sheep bleat] [horse neigh] …etc.

e.g. [Exceptional weather] [abnormal weather] [perform operation]
[high probability] [good chance] …etc.
e.g. DO - MAKE: [do shopping] [do a job] [do a favor] [do change]
[make a mess] [make a noise] [make a call] [make a promise]
e.g. GET – GO: [get tired] [get sick] [go bald] [go gray]
e.g. GET – FALL: [get sick] [fall ill]
e.g. VERY – SO: [very tired] [so happy]
e.g. SLEEP: [feel asleep] [sound sleep] [fast sleep]
e.g. [wide awake]
e.g. [powerful car] [strong tea]
e.g. [go in a building] [get in a car] [get on a ship]
- The meaning of the collocation between two words, can be the total meaning of the two words.
- The meaning of a collocation is transparent.

* IDIOMS: [TERMS مصطلحات]
- A type of collocation, were the meaning of it is not transparent [opaque].
- We cannot guess the meaning of an idiom easily.
e.g. [kick the bucket = die] [spell the beans = make the secret known]
[fly off the handle = get angry]
[red herring = interrupt somebody’s talk]

- The main difference between collocation & idioms:
The main difference is in the total meaning of them. The meaning of collocation is TRANSPARENT, but the meaning of an idiom is OPAQUE

!!!! Palestinian for EVER !!!!

English Club For Arab Students

SEMANTICS Overview - By: Hussein Ghunaim Graduation


Number of posts : 83
Age : 38
Localisation : Jordan - Zarqa
Registration date : 2007-07-09


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