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Chapter 5 Semantics


Chapter 5 Semantics
I. Definition of terms 1. denotation: the part of the meaning of a word or a phrase that relates it to phenomena in the real world or in a fictional or possible world. 2. connotation: a term in a contrast with denotation, the additional meanings that a word or phrase has beyond its central meaning. 3. conceptual meaning: The central meaning or core meaning of a lexical item, which contains logical, cognitive, or denotative content. It refers to that part of the meaning of a word or phrase that relates it to phenomena in the real world or in a fictional or possible world. 4. sense: Sense is concerned with the inherent meaning of the linguistic form. It is the collection of all the features of the linguistic form; it is abstract and de-contextualised. 5. reference: Reference means what a linguistic form refers to in the real, physical world; it deals with the relationship between the linguistic element and the non-linguistic world of experience. 6. hyponymy: a relation between two words, in which the meaning of one word (the superordinate) is included in the meaning of another word (the hyponym). 7. semantics: Semantics can be simply defined as the study of meaning in language. 8. synonymy: Synonymy refers to the sameness or close similarity of meaning. 9. polysemy: Polysemy refers to the fact that the same one word may have more than one meaning. 10. homonymy: Homonymy refers to the phenomenon that words having different meanings have the same form, i.e. , different words are identical in sound or spelling, or in both. 11. homophones: When two words are identical in sound, they are called homophones 12. homographs: When two words are identical in spelling, they are homographs. 13. complete homonyms: When two words are identical in both sound and spelling, they are called complete homonyms. 14. antonymy: Antonymy refers to the relation of oppositeness of meaning. 15. componential analysis: Componential analysis is a way to analyze word meaning. It was proposed by structural semanticists. The approach is based on the belief that the meaning of a word can be divided into meaning components, which are called semantic features. 16. predication: The predication is the abstraction of the meaning of a sentence. 17. argument: An argument is a logical participant in a predication. It is generally identical with the nominal element (s) in a sentence. 18. predicate: A predicate is something that is said about an argument or it states the logical relation linking the arguments in a sentence. 19. semantic component: also semantic feature or semantic properties, the basic unit of meaning in a word. The meanings of words may be described as a combination of semantic features. Fro example, the semantic feature <+male> is part of the meaning of father, and so is the feature <+adult> but other features are needed to give the whole concept or sense of father. 20. selectional restriction: the constraints on what lexical items can go with what others. II. Blank-filling 1. _____ can be defined as the study of meaning. (Semantics) 2. The classic semantic triangle reflects _____. (the conceptual view) 3. _____ opposites are pairs of words that exhibit the reversal of a relationship between the two items. (Relational) 4. _____ is the fact that would have to obtain in reality to make a proposition true or false. (Truth condition) 5. “Mean” and “frugal” are said to be _____ synonyms. (emotive) 6. There is no direct link between a linguistic form and what it refers to (i.e., between language and the real world)”. This is the _____ view concerning the study of meaning. (conceptualist) 7. Sentence meaning is the combination of the meanings of the component words and the meaning of its structure

8. _____ opposites/antonyms may be seen in terms of degrees of quality involved. (Gradable) 9. According to the _____ theory of meaning, the words in a language are taken to be labels of the objects they stand for. (naming) 10. Predication analysis is to break down predications into their constituents: _____ and _____. (argument; predicate) 11. Predication analysis is a way to analyze sentence meaning, which is proposed by the British linguist G. Leech 12. _____ sentences express judgment. (Declarative) 13. _____ analysis is based upon the belief that the meaning of a word can be divided into meaning components. (componential) 14. The ambiguity of a sentence may arise from ______. (lexical ambiguity; structural ambiguity) 15. The meaning of a language form is as the “the situation in which the speaker utters it and the response it calls forth in the hearer” is put forward by ______. (L. Bloomfield) 16. The pair of words “single” and “married” are ______ antonyms. (gradable) 17. We call the relation between “animal” and “cow” as _______. (hyponymy) 18. The sentence “John likes pancakes” contains ______ arguments. (two) 19. The linguistic ______ is sometimes known as co-text. (context) 20. The noun “tear” and the verb “tear” are ______. (homographs) III. Multiple choices 1. The naming theory is proposed by _____. (A) A. Plato B. Bloomfield C. Geoffrey Leech D. Firth 2. _____ in a person’s speech, or writing, usually ranges on a continuum from causal to formal according to the type of communicative context. (A) A. Stylistc variation B. Ideolectal variation C. Social variation D. Regional variation 3. The same word may have more than one meaning, which is called ______. (D) A. synonymy B. hyponymy C. phmonymy D. polysemy 4. “By regarding words as acts, events, habits, we limit our inquiry to what is objective in the group life of our fellow,” and “We shall know a word by the company it keeps” is a view concerning the study of meaning. It is proposed by ______, ______, a British linguist. (C) A. conceptualist, Ogden B. conceptualist, Richards C. conceptualist, Firth D. behaviourist, Bloomfield 5. Idioms are ______. (B) A. sentences B. naming units C. phrases D. communication units 6. ______ suggests the semantic triangle or the triangle of significance which best illustrates the conceptualist view. (A) A. Richards B. Plato C. Bloomfield D. Leech 7. The grammaticality of a sentence is governed by _______. (A) A. grammatical rules B. selectional restrictions C. semantic rules D. semantic features 8. _______ describes whether a proposition is true or false. (B) A. Truth B. Truth value C. Truth condition D. Falsehood 9. “John hit Peter” and “Peter was hit by John” are the same _______. (A) A. proposition B. sentence C. utterance D. truth 10. A word with several meaning is _______. (B) A. homonym B. polysemic word C. synonym D. complete hyponym 11. Bull: C BOVINE ][ MALE ][ ADULT] is an example of_______. (A)

A. componential analysis B. predication analysis C. compositionality D. selection restriction 12. The semantic triangle holds that the meaning of a word _______. (A) A. is interpreted through the mediation of concept. B. is related to the thing it refers to. C. is the idea associated with that word in the minds of speakers. D. is the image it is represented in the mind. 13. When the truth of sentence (a) guarantees the truth of sentence (b) and the falsity of sentence (b) guarantees the falsity of sentence (a), we can say that _______. (B) A. sentence (a ) presupposes sentence (b) B. sentence (a ) entails sentence (b) C. sentence (a ) is inconsistent with sentence (b) D. sentence (a ) contradicts sentence (b) 14. “Can I borrow your bike?” _______ “You have a bike.” (D) A. is synonymous with B. is inconsistent with C. entails D. presupposes 15. The relationship between “begin” and “commerce” is ________. (D) A. semantically different synonyms B. collocational synonyms C. dialectal synonyms D. stylistic synonyms 16. “John killed Bill but Bill didn’t die” is a (n) ________. (D) A. entailment B. presupposition C. anomaly D. contradiction 17. The same word has the same ________ meaning to all the speakers of the same language. (A) A. conceptual B. lexical C. affective D. associative 18. What essentially distinguishes semantics and pragmatics is the notion of _______. (D) A. reference B. meaning C. antonymy D. context 19. Analysis of meaning includes ________. (B) A. predication analysis and semantics analysis B. componential analysis and predication analysis C. componential analysis and semantics analysis D. semantics analysis and structural analysis 20. The semantic features of the word “woman” can be expressed as ________. (C) A. +ANIMATE, -HUMAN, +ADULT, +MALE B. +ANIMATE, +HUMAN, -ADULT, +MALE C. +ANIMATE, +HUMAN, +ADULT, -MALE D. +ANIMATE, -HUMAN, -ADULT, -MALE IV. True or false statements 1. Whether a sentence is semantically meaningful is governed by rules called selectional restrictions. (T) 2. Contextualism is based on the presumption that one can derive meaning from or reduce meaning to observable contexts. (T) 3. Hyponyms of the same hyponymy are co-hyponyms. (F) 4. One merit of componential analysis is that by specifying the semantic features of certain words, it will be possible to show how these words are related in meaning. (T) 5. The linguistic context considers the probability of one word’s co?occurrence or collocation with another, which forms part of the meaning, and an important factor in communication. (T) 6. Componential analysis is based on the belief that the meaning of a word cannot be dissected into meaning

components, called semantic features. (F) 7. “It is sunny” is a no-place predication because it contains no argument. (T) 8. Linguistic forms having the same sense may have different references in different situations while linguistic forms with the same reference always have the same sense. (F) 9. “Either it is raining here or it isn’t raining here” is empirically true. (F) 10. In the study of meaning, the psychologists are interested in understanding the relation between linguistic expressions and what they refer to in the real world. (F) 11. An important difference between presupposition and entailment is that presupposition, unlike entailment, is not vulnerable to negation. That is to say, if a sentence is negated, the original presupposition is still true. (T) 12. Dialectal synonyms can often be found in different regional dialects such as British English and American English but cannot be found within the variety itself, for example, within British English or American English. (F) 13. The relationship of “He likes cycling.” and “He likes sports.” is the former presupposing the latter. (F) 14. Most languages have sets of lexical items similar in meaning but ranked differently according to their degree of formality. (T) 15. Interrogative and imperative sentences do not have truth value. (T) 16. Homophones are often employed to create the following effects: ridicule, humor, sarcasm and redundancy. (F) 17. Linguistic forms having the same sense may have different references in different situations. (T) 18. Hyponymy is a matter of class membership, so it is the same as meronymy. (F) 19. The particular words or constructions that produce presuppositions is called presupposition trigger. (T) 20. The meaning that can be found in a dictionary is the connotative meaning of a word. (F) V. Questions 1. How many kinds of meaning did linguists find and study? C. C. Fries (1952) makes a traditional distinction between lexical meaning and structural meaning. According to him, the total linguistic meaning of any utterance consists of the lexical meaning of the separate words plus such structural meaning. G. Leech (1981), from a functional approach, categorizes seven kinds of meaning, five of which are brought under the “associative meaning” (see the following Table 5.1). Table 5.1 Conceptual meaning Associative meaning Connotative meaning Social meaning Affective meaning Reflected meaning Collocative meaning Thematic meaning Logical, cognitive, or denotative meaning What is communicated by virtue of what language refers to. What is communicated of the social circumstances of language use. What is communicated of the feelings and attitudes of the speaker/ writer. What is communicated through association with another sense of the same expression. What is communicated through association with words which tend to occur in the environment of another word. What is communicated by the way in which the message is organized in terms of order and emphasis.

2. What are the major views concerning the study of meaning? How do they differ? One of the oldest was the naming theory, proposed by the ancient Greek scholar Plato, who believed that the words used in a language are taken to be labels of the objects they stand for. The conceptualist view holds that there is no direct link between a linguistic form and what it refers to. The form and the meaning are linked through the mediation of concepts in the mind. Contextualism is based on the presumption that one can derive meaning from or reduce meaning to observable contexts. Two kinds of context are recognized; the situational context and the linguistic context.

For example, the meaning of the word “seal” in the sentence “The seal could not be found” can only be determined according to the context in which the sentence occurs: The seal could not be found. The zoo keeper became worried. (seal meaning an aquatic mammal) The seal could not be found. The king became worried. (seal meaning the king’s stamp) Behaviorism drew on behaviorist psychology when he tried to define the meaning of linguistic forms. Behaviorists attempted to define the meaning of a language form as “the situation in which the speaker utters it and the response it calls forth in the hearer”. 3. What is the difference between meaning, concept, connotation, and denotation? Meaning refers to the association of language symbols with the real world. There are many types of meanings according to different approaches. Concept is the impression of objects in people’s mind; connotation is the implied meaning, similar to implication and implicature; denotation, like sense, is not directly related with objects, but makes the abstract assumption of the real world. 4. What is the relationship between sentence meaning and word meaning? Give examples. The meaning of sentence is supposed to be the combination of word meaning and sentence structure. Sentences using the same words may mean quite differently in that the words are arranged in different orders. For example, (a) The man chased the dog. (b) The dog chased the man. Even when two sentences mean similarly as (c) and (d), there is still difference in thematic meaning: (c) I’ve already seen that film. (d) That film I’ve already seen. With sentences like (e), we need not only know the linear order of a sentence, but also the hierarchical structure: (e) The son of Pharaoh’s daughter is the daughter of Pharaoh’s son. The hierarchical structure may be analyzed as the following; The son of Pharaoh’ s daughter is the daughter of Pharaoh’s son.

Sentences also exhibit meaning properties and relations that words and phrases may lack. Communicative potential is one point in case. A diagram for this may be as follows: (f) Declarative sentence → Used to constate (assert, state, claim, etc.) (g) Imperative → Used to direct (order, request, command, etc.) 5. Are utterances, sentences, and propositions the same? No. These three terms are used to describe different levels of language. The most concrete is utterance which is created by speaking (or writing) a piece of language. Sentences, on the other hand, are abstract grammatical elements obtained from utterances. For example, an utterance has a tone, or perhaps some accent due to regional or social variation, and phonetic details which identify individual speakers, etc. But at the level of sentence, these kinds of information are ignored. Propositions are the result of a further abstraction of sentences, which are descriptions of states of affairs and which some writers see as a basic element of sentence meaning. For example, the two sentences “Caesar invaded Gaul” and “Gaul was invaded by Caesar” hold the same proposition. 6. How are the truth values of the sentences “Either it is raining here or it isn’t raining here” and “Some boys that are sick are not boys” different from those of the sentences “The earth is round” and “PRC was founded in 1950”? The former sentences are respectively linguistically true (also called analytically true) and linguistically false (contradictory). The latter two sentences are respectively empirically true and empirically false. The truth condition of a sentence which is linguistically true is determined solely by the semantics of the language and it is not necessary to check if any facts about the nonlinguistic world in order to determine their truth or falsehood.

While the knowledge of the language alone does not determine the truth condition of an empirically true sentence, and it is necessary to check the world in order to verify or falsify it. 7. How is a phrase different from an idiom and a proverb? Phrase is not a sentence. It is the naming unit instead of communication unit, and its meaning is the result of the combination of the meanings of its individual words and the meaning of its structure while an idiom is the fossilized form of a phrase whose meaning, generally speaking, cannot be inferred directly from the meanings of its component words. Proverbs are fossilized sentences. 8. What is a semantic field? Can you illustrate it? It is an organizational principle that the lexicon and groups of words in the lexicon can be semantically related, rather than a listing of words as in a published dictionary. On a very general and intuitive level, we can say that the words in a semantic field, though not synonymous, are all used to talk about the same general phenomenon, and there is a meaning inclusion relation between the items in the field and the field category itself. Classical examples of semantic fields include color terms (red, green, blue, yellow), kinship terms (mother, father, sister, brother), and cooking terms (boil, fry, broil, steam) as semantic fields. 9. Illustrate how the semantic field differs from one culture to another? Let’s take kinship terms for example. Every language has its kin terms, but they are used in different ways. For instance, the kin terms for the people of the same parents in English are brother and sister; while in Chinese 哥哥 (elder brother), 弟弟 (younger brother), 姐姐 ( elder sister), 妹妹 ( younger sister). English makes only one distinction— sex; however, in addition to sex, Chinese gives another — being younger or older. 10. In what way do the following pairs offer contrast? (a) earth /a:θ / n. 1. our planet. 2. the soil on the surface of our planet. bank /ba k/n. a financial institution bank /ba k/n. side of a river (b) bear /b / n. a wild animal bare /b / a. naked (c) bow /bau / n. an inclination of the head or body, as in greeting, consent, courtesy, acknowledgment, submission, or veneration. bow / beu / n. a bent, curved, or arched object. (d) lead /li:d/ v. go in front of a group of people lead /li:d/ n. a soft heavy easily melted grayish-blue metal (e) found /faund/ p.p. of find found /faund/ v. establish or set up The five pairs show different semantic relations of words. In (a), the various senses of “earth” can be treated as polysemy, while those of “bank” as homonymy. “bear” and “bare” in (b) are homophones, those in (c) are homographs, the ones in (d) are perfect homonyms, and the words in (e) are homonyms. Polysemy and homonymy both deal with multiple senses of the same phonological word, but polysemy is invoked if the senses are judged to be related. Homonymous senses, however, are unrelated. Homonymy can be classified into partial homonymy and perfect homonymy. Words falling under the category of partial homonymy can be homophones or homographs. Homophones are words phonologically identical but formally different. Homographs are words identical in form but different in sound. Perfect homonymy is exemplified by the words which are identical in sound and spelling or both in sound-form and part of speech. Homonyms are words quite different in meaning but identical in some of their grammatical forms. 11. Why are converse antonyms known as relational opposites? Converse antonyms denote not only the oppositeness of meaning, but also an interdependence of meaning. They are also called relational opposites because converse antonymy is typically seen, in reciprocal social roles, kinship relations, temporal and spatial relations. 12. What is hyponymy composed of? Illustrate whether there is always a superordinate to hyponyms, or hyponyms to a superordinate.

Hyponymy is composed of a superordinate and hyponyms; the hyponyms under the same superordinate are co-hyponyms. There is not always a superordinate to hyponyms, or hyponyms to a superordinate. Sometimes a superordinate may be a superordinate to itself. For example, the word “animal” may only include beasts like “tiger”, “lion”, “elephant”, “cow”, “horse” and is a co-hyponym of “human”. But it is also the superordinate to both “human” and “animal” in contrast to “bird”, “fish”, and “insect”, when it is used in the sense of “mammal”. It can further be the superordinate to “bird”, “fish”, “insect”, and “mammal” in contrast to “plant”. From the hyponym’s point of view, “animal” is a hyponym of itself, and may be called auto-hyponym. (See the following tree) living plant animal bird fish insect animal human animal tiger lion elephant …

A superordinate may be missing sometimes. In English there is no superordinate for the colour terms “red”, “green”, “yellow”, “blue”, “white”, etc. The term “colour” is a noun, which is not of the same part of speech as the member terms. And the term “coloured” does not usually include “white and black”. When it is used to refer to human races, it means “non-white” only. Hyponyms may also be missing. In contrast to Chinese, there is only one word in English for the different kinds of uncles:伯伯、叔叔、舅舅、姑父、姨父. The word “rice” is also used in the different senses of 稻、谷、米、饭. 13. What is contextualism? Contextualism is based on the presumption that one can derive meaning from, or reduce it to, observable context—the situational context and the linguistic context. Every utterance occurs in a particular spatio-temporal situation, and the following factors are related to the situational context: (l)the speaker and the hearer; (2) the actions they are performing at the time; (3) various external objects and events; (4) deictic features. The linguistic context considers the probability of one word’s co-occurrence or collocation with another, which forms part of the meaning, and an important factor in communication. 14. Why may a sentence be ambiguous? The ambiguity of a sentence may arise from lexical ambiguity or structural ambiguity. Lexical ambiguity arises from polysemy or homonymy which can not be determined by the context. For example, (a) The table is fascinating. (b) She couldn’t bear children. Table in (a) is an example of polysemy. It can be a piece of furniture, or the stated kind or quality of food served at a meal here. The ambiguity of (b) lies in the two meanings of the homonym bear — endure or produce children. The following sentence is an example of structural ambiguity. (c) The mother of the boy and the girl will arrive soon. It could be formulated as follows: The mother (of the boy and the girl) will arrive soon. (The mother of the boy) and (the girl) will arrive soon. 15. How many semantic relations are there among sentences? Give examples. There are basically six; (l) synonymy, e. g. X: “He was a bachelor all his life”. Y: “He never married all his life”. (2) inconsistence, e.g. X: “Mark is married”. Y: “Mark is a bachelor”. (3) entailment, e.g. X: “Mark married a blonde heiress”. Y: “Mark married a blonde”. (4) presupposition, e.g. “Mark is married”. The presupposition may be “Mark is not a bachelor”. 5) contradiction, e.g. “My unmarried aunt is married to a bachelor”. 6) anomaly, e.g. “The blackboard has a bad temper”. 16. What is entailment? What are the sources of entailment?

Entailment is basically a semantic relation (or logical implication). If sentence A entails sentence B, it must observe that, in terms of truth value, when sentence A is true, sentence B must be also true; when sentence B is false, sentence A must also be false, and that when sentence B is true, sentence A may be true or false. The source of entailment may be lexical or syntactical. Lexical source of entailment can be shown in the example like, (a) The anarchist assassinated the emperor. (b) The emperor died. The relationship of entailment between (a) and (b) derives from the lexical relationship between assassinate and die. In some sense the meaning of assassinate contains the meaning of die. Other sources for entailment are syntactic: for example, active and passive versions of the same sentence will entail one another. Sentences below show this well: (c) The Etruscans built this tomb. (d) This tomb was built by Etruscans. 17. What is presupposition? What are presupposition triggers? Presupposition is the relation between propositions by which a presupposes b if, for a to have a truth-value, b must be true. Presupposition triggers refer to the particular words or constructions that produce presuppositions. Some of these triggers derive from (1) syntactic structure, namely, subordinate clauses, and (2) certain words, such as factive verbs, verbs of judgment, change of state verbs, etc. 18. How do you distinguish between entailment and presupposition in terms of truth values? Entailment is a relation of inclusion. Suppose there are two sentences X and Y: X: He has been to France. Y: He has been to Europe. In terms of truth values, if X is true, Y is necessarily true, e.g. If he has been to France, he must have been to Europe. If X is false, Y may be true or false, e. g. If he has not been to France, he may still have been to Europe or he has not been to Europe. If Y is true, X may be true or false, e.g. If he has been to Europe, he may or may not have been to France. If Y is false, X is false, e.g. If he has not been to Europe, he cannot have been to France. Therefore we conclude that X entails Y or Y is an entailment of X. The truth conditions that we use to judge presupposition is as follows: Suppose there are two sentences X and Y: X: John' s bike needs repairing. Y: John has a bike. If X is true, Y must be true, e.g. If John’ s bike needs repairing, John must have a bike. If X is false, Y is still true, e. g. If John’ s bike does not need repairing, John still has a bike. If Y is true, X is either true or false, e.g. If John has a bike, it may or may not need repairing. If Y is false, no truth value can be said about X, e.g. If John does not have a bike, nothing can be said about whether his bike needs repairing or not. Therefore, X presupposes Y, or Y is a presupposition of X. 19. Make a componential analysis on the following groups of words: bull, cow, calf; father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister; kill, give, die, murder. bull= [BOVINE] & [MALE] & [ADULT) cow= [BOVINE) & [FEMALE] & [ADULT) calf = [BOVINE] & [NOT-ADULT] father = PARENT(x. y) & MALE(x) mother = PARENT(x, y) & ~ MALE (x) son = CHILD(x, y) & MALE (x) daughter = CHILD(x, y) & ~ .MALE (x)

brother = SIBUNG(x, y) & MALE (x) sister = SIBLING(x, y) & ~ MALE(x) kill = CAUSE(x,(BECOME(y,(~ AUVE(y))))) give = CAUSE(x, (~ HAVE(x, y))) die = BECOME(x,(~ AUVE(x))) murder = INTEND ( x, ( CAUSE ( x, ( BECOME (y, ( ~ ALIVE (y))))))) 20. What is predication analysis? What is a no-place, one-place, two-place, or three-place predicate? Give examples. Predication analysis is a new approach for sentential meaning analysis which is to break down the sentence into their smaller constituents: argument and predicate. The predicate is the major or pivotal element governing the argument. The argument is the logical participant. A no-place predicate is a predicate which governs no argument; a one-place predicate, one argument; a two-place predicate, two arguments; and a three-place predicate, three arguments. Respective examples are: (a) It is snowing.—(SNOW) (b) Baby is sleeping.—BABY (SLEEP) (c) John loves Mary. —JOHN, MARY (LOVE) (d) John gave Mary a book.—JOHN, MARY, BOOK (GIVE) 21. Why do we say that a meaning of a sentence is not the sum total of the meanings of all its components? The meaning of a sentence is not the sum total of the meanings of all its components because it cannot be worked out by adding up all the meanings of its constituent words. For example; (A) The dog bit the man. (B) The man bit the dog. If the meaning of a sentence were the sum total of the meanings of all its components, then the above two sentences would have the same meaning. In fact they are different in meanings. As we know, there are two aspects to sentence meaning: grammatical meaning and semantic meaning. The grammatical meanings of “the dog” and “the man” in (A) are different from the grammatical meanings of “the dog” and “the man” in (B). The meaning of a sentence is the product of both lexical and grammatical meaning. It is the product of the meaning of the constituent words and of the grammatical constructions that relate one word syntagmatically to another.


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