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Componential analysis


Componential analysis
Componential analysis was known as CA, which is also called feature analysis or contrast analysis, refers to the description of the meaning of words. In making componential analysis, we need to find out semantic features and use rectangles or square brackets to describe the meaning of the words. For example: man human adult + + woman + + +adult boy + – +male] –male] girl + –

Man [+human

Woman [+human +adult

From these forms, it is easy to find out the difference between the words. Naturally, there are some merits of componential analysis. First of all, it is simple, clear and formalized which is benefit for language teaching as well as understanding of the semantic structure. The meaning of the words can be understood easily. Also, it can provide convenience for machine translation. Second, through componential analysis of words, we could know the correct collocation and analyze the syntactic structure so that we can write the correct sentences. Eg: ① Tom has become an English teacher for two years. ② Tom has been an English teacher for two years.

The surface structures of the two sentences are very similar, but if we analysis the verb, we could find that the verb“become”that used in sentence① is [+momentary], and can not collocate with ?for+time?, while in sentence②, “be” is a [–momentary] verb, and it can co-occur with ?for+time?, so sentence② can be accepted whereas sentence① can not. Good as it is, it also has some demerits. ⑴ the semantic filed is possessed of characteristic of different levels, interlocking, variability, nationality-cultural property, while analyzing words, it must use the methods for contrast, it can only analyze the words which are the same kind of language and also the words of same nature. For example, we can?t distinguish the word “brother” and the word “eat”, because they are different part of speech. ⑵ it has some limitations; it is difficult to make sure the number of the components. And we could not apply the finite components to explain the semantic system of one language. It can not distinguish the word meaning accurately. For example, if we analyze “take” [+make oneself +possess], some other words can

also analyze in [+make oneself +possess], as the word “steal”. So the semantic feature which is not a closed system, it has a large number of components and which can not be made sure. ⑶ the componential analysis which is so subjective, when

analyzing a word, which feature should be chose and which should be banned, it depends on us. It lacks of objective criterion. It only distinguishes the essential features, not the fine features. ⑷ componential analysis is useful only in a limited field, it accounts for only some parts of a language?s vocabulary. Some adjective words or verbs that can not be analyzed. Just as what are semantic features of ugly, angry? ⑸ it could not distinguish the emotional coloring. Some words that have the same meaning, but they express the different emotion. Such as the “accomplice” and the “collaborator”, one is pejorative, the other is commendatory. Therefore, there are some restrictions of componential analysis, some more other analysis methods should be added to make it better use.

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