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6.Semantics-Sentence


Semantics

Sentence meaning: Predication Analysis

楚军

外国语学院

The Semantic Structure of Sentences
How about this hypothesis? --the meaning of a sentence is merely the sum of the meanings of the words and other constituents which compose it. Without ?predication analysis‘, we could not tell the difference of meaning between: My wife has a new dog. My new wife has a dog. My new dog has a wife. (All these would have to be regarded as synonymous with the help of ?CA‘.)

Predications, Arguments and Predicates
? Predication (述谓): For the following three sentences: The children ate their dinner. Did the children eat their dinner? Eat your dinner, children! Leaving aside differences of tense and pronouns, these sentences share a common content ?Children eat dinner‘ and this kind of structure is considered under the name of ?predication‘.

Predications, Arguments and Predicates
Predications consist of Arguments and Predicates which consist of Features. ? For spatial relations (three semantic oppositions): →DIRECTION / ←DIRECTION (directional contrast between ?in front of‘ and ?behind‘, ?over‘ and ?under‘, etc.) + HORIZONTAL (?horizontal‘) - HORIZONTAL (?vertical‘) + LATERAL (?side-to-side‘) - LATERAL (?back-to-back‘)

Predications, Arguments and Predicates
An example ―A man is /was in front of a woman.‖ (see the diagram p.128, Leech) ? Predicate and argument have different roles in the whole predication: ? The predicate is the major element to govern the arguments, which are in a relation of dependency diagram, with the arguments branching off from the predicate. ? The predicate determines the number and nature of the arguments.

Predications, Arguments and Predicates
? The above example: the relational meaning of ?in front of‘ requires the presence of two arguments which can be placed in a spatial relationship. ? One-place predicate (monadic) governs one argument (typically realized by a nominal or adjectival complement or conveyed by intransitive verbs). (see 9—11, Leech, p.130) ? Two-place predicate (dyadic) governs two arguments. (see 8, Leech, p.129) ? Three-place predicate (triadic) govern three arguments (typically realized by the ditransitive verbs, combination of two-place and one-place).

Predication Analysis
Predication analysis: --interrelated with, and complementary to, componential analysis. Predication analysis refers to breaking down predications into their constituents. Componential analysis and predication analysis together enable us to represent the greater part of the meaning of sentences.

Predication Analysis
? ? ? ? Three general types of predicate: Two-place as P2; One-place as P1; No-place as P0. (meteorological utterances: It is raining. It will be warm tomorrow.) ? Thus three types of predication: (13, p.131, Leech)

Predication Analysis
? Linear formulae can be used to do predication analysis: ? Two-place predications: (a.→P. b) OR (b. ←P. a) OR (a. P. b) One-place predications: (a: P) OR (P: a)
(Brackets are used to delimit the whole predication, a single dot separates arguments from predicate in a twoplace predication, and a colon separates argument from predicate in a one-place predication. Conventionally, a, b, c, etc. are used as variables for arguments, P, Q, R, etc. are used as variables for predicates.)

Predication Analysis
1) A predication-componential formulae: (see 7a, p.132, Leech) 2) A simple linear arrangement omitting +, ↑,and → for unmarked or dominant terms: (Human Adult Male Singular . Direction –Lateral . Human Adult –Male Singular) ?A man in front of a woman‘ (Breed –Singular: Big) ?Alsatians be large‘ 3) A mixed version: (Vehicle Singular a. P. Concrete Singular b) --part of the meaning of ?The red car hit the wall‘.

Predication Analysis
4) A semi-informal representation: (a man . In Front Of . a woman) (the red car . Hit . the wall) (alsatians : Be Large) (the train : Departed)

Null Arguments
? Null arguments: referring to arguments which contain no features. A null argument is void of content in the sense that it has the maximum generality of reference. It has no syntactic realization. ? John is eating. symbolized: ?(John . Eat. ?)‘ or more generally ?(a. P. ?)‘ ?John is eating‘ and ?John is sleeping‘ are quite different: the former is a two-place predicate, of which one argument is null, but the latter is a one-place predicate containing an intransitive v.

Subordinate Predications
In semantics, a subordinate predication may be part of a main predication, i.e. a predicate may govern not only arguments, but other predicates. E.g. 1) ?John made Bill become /get angry‘ or ?John made Bill angry‘ or ?John angered Bill‘, etc. 2) ?It is possible that the prisoners were executed before the president arrived‘, or ?The execution of the prisoners may have preceded the arrival of the president‘, etc.

Subordinate Predications
The above two examples can be symbolized: (1) Dependency diagram (39, 40, pp.142-143, Leech) (2) In linear version: 1) (a . P . (Q : (R : b))) 2) (P : ((a . R . b) . Q . (c : S))) (3) With semi-informal method: 1) (John . Cause . (Become : (Angry : Bill))) 2) (Possible : ((? . Execute . prisoners) . Before . (president : Arrive)))

Downgraded Predications
One predication may be included in another. There exists a predication which is demoted within an argument or within a predicate. ? The most explicit way for a downgraded predication to be expressed is by means of a relative clause, a noun phrase or even a single noun or adjective. E.g. ? a man who was wearing a wig ? a man with a wig ? a man wearing a wig ? a bewigged man

Downgraded Predications
? butcher: a man who sells meat ? cyclist: a person who rides a bicycle ? illiterate: who cannot read ? rich: who has much property A downgraded predication can be placed in angle brackets. E.g. ?a misogynistic novelist‘ or ?a man who writes novels and who hates women‘ or ?a novel-writing misogynist‘ or ?a woman-hating male novelist‘, etc. can be expressed (43,44, p.145, 43a-c, p.147, Leech)

Downgraded Predications
? Two kinds of downgraded predication: (1) A qualifying predication occurs within an argument and underlies many of the ?adjectival‘ functions of syntax: adjectives, relative clauses, qualifying prepositional phrases, etc. e.g. ?rich bachelors‘, ?bachelors in London‘, ?London bachelors‘, ?bachelors who own fast cars‘.

Downgraded Predications
(2) A modifying predication occurs within a predicate and underlies many of the ?adverbial‘ functions of syntax: adverbs, adverbial prepositional phrases, adverbial clauses, etc. e.g. ?He got married in church‘, ?He soon got married‘, ?He got married to please his family‘. Modifying predications can also be incorporated into the definition of a single word: sprint: to run quickly, repeat: to say again.

Downgraded Predications
? An example of modifying predications: ?The girl slept for three hours‘, or ?The girl was asleep, which lasted three hours‘ or ?The girl‘s sleep lasted three hours‘. (see 46, 49, pp.146, 147, 46a-c, p.147, Leech)

Sentences, Propositions and Predications
? Ambiguity is a property of sentences, an ambiguous (declarative) sentence may be defined as a (declarative) sentence which expresses more than one proposition. e.g. ?Hugo is drawing a cart.‘ --‘Hugo is drawing a picture of a cart.‘ --‘Hugo is pulling a cart.‘ Sentences are syntactic units; propositions are semantic units; ambiguity is a one-many relation between syntax and sense.

Sentences, Propositions and Predications
? Each of the following exemplifies the predication ?girl ride horse‘: a. The girl rode a horse b. The girl didn‘t ride a horse c. Did the girl ride a horse? d. The girl‘s riding of a horse e. For the girl to ride a horse Only a and b are propositions and can be described as being true or false. Why?

Sentences, Propositions and Predications
? Factors to judge a proposition: 1)a and b are expressed by a clause with a finite verb, with a tense form (past) which marks it as describing something which happened at a particular time. 2)The clause is in the declarative mood, with the effect of asserting something, rather than asking a question (c).

Sentences, Propositions and Predications

3) With the contrast between positive and negative (polarity), the circumstance described corresponds to some reality (a) or not (b). 4) Both ?the girl‘ and ?a horse‘ refer to something which exists.

Correspondences between syntactic constituents and semantic elements

Syntactic Noun phrase Verb phrase Adjective phrase Prepositional phrase Relative clause
Adverb, adverbial phrase or clause

Semantic Argument Predicate One-place predicate Downgraded predication Downgraded qualifying predication Downgraded modifying predication

Correspondences between syntactic constituents and semantic elements Syntactic Preposition Conjunction Nominal clause ?Nominalization‘ (i.e. noun phrase With an abstract noun head derived from a verb or an Adjective) Semantic Predicate Predicate Subordinate predication Subordinate predication


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