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 What is meaning?

In semantics and pragmatics meaning is the message conveyed by words,

sentences, and symbols in a context. Also called lexical meaning or semantic
 Some types of meaning:
1. Literal meaning
The literal meaning is the most obvious or non-figurative sense of a word
or words. Gregory Currie has observed that the “Literal meaning of
literal meaning’ is as vague as that of ‘hill’. But just as vagueness is no
objection to the claim that there are hilss, so it is no objectiob to the
claim that there are literal meanings” (Image and Mind,1995)
‘It is time to feed the cats and dogs’
This phrase Cats and dogs is used in a literal sense, for the animals are
hungry and it is time to eat.
2. Figurative meaning
Figurative meaning by definition, is the metaphorical, idiomatic, or
ironic sense of a word or expression, in contras to its literal meaning. In
recent years, a number of researchers (Including R.W. Gibhbs snd K.
Barbe, both quoted below) have challaenged conventional distinctions
between literal meaning and figurative meaning. According to M.L
Murphy and A,Koskela, “Cognitive linguist in particular disagree with
the notion that figurative language is derivative or suplementary to literal
language and instead argue that figurative language, particularly
metaphor and metonymy, reflect the way we conceptualize abstract
notions in terms of more concrete ones” (Key Terns in Semantic 2010).
3. Denotation meaning
The definition of denotation refers to the direct or dictionary meaning of
a word, in contrast to its figurative or associated meanings
(connotations). To understand the difference, think of how words would
be used in writing about science or legal matters (with a precision of
meaning) vs. how words would be used in poetry (rich with allusion,
metaphor, and other shades of meaning than just their straight dictionary
As a verb, the term is to denote, and as an adjective, something is
denotative. The concept is also called extension or reference. Denotative
meaning is sometimes called cognitive meaning, referential meaning, or
conceptual meaning. Look at the simple words house vs. home. Both
have a denotative meeting as a place where you live. But you can tap
more connotations with home than house, which is a word that's more
4. Connotative meaning
Connotation refers to the emotional implications and associations that a
word may carry, in contrast to its denotative (or literal) meanings. Verb:
connote. Adjective: connotative. Also called intension or sense.The
connotation of a word can be positive, negative, or neutral. It can also be
either cultural or personal. Here's an example: To most people the word
cruise connotes--suggests--a delightful holiday; thus its cultural
connotation is positive. If you get seasick, however, the word may
connote only discomfort to you; your personal connotation is negative.

 Leech’ Classification of Meaning

Taking into account certain non-linguistic aspects of meaning, Geoffrey Leech
(1981) lists seven different types of meaning:
a) Referential meaning (also called denotative meaning, descriptive meaning,
conceptual meaning, or sense) refers to the logical, cognitive, or denotative
content of an expression.
b) Connotative meaning (associative meaning) denotes the associations and
secondary meanings the expression evokes.
c) Social meaning Information that the linguistic expression conveys about certain
social characteristics (stylistic meaning).
d) Affective meaning is the emotive or affective component of the expression is
referred to as its affective meaning. Social meaning and affective meaning
together are sometimes called connotation.
e) Collocative meaning is The term reflected meaning refers to certain
associations with another sense of the same expression, whereas collocative
meaning (collocation) is conveyed by characteristic word combinations.
f) Thematic meaning denotes the organization of a message in terms of
information structure.
 Sentence/word Meaning and speaker Meaning
Semantics and pragmatics are both concerned with the study of meaning; we
have to distinguish between speaker meaning and sentence meaning.
 Speaker meaning: is what a speaker means (intends to convey) when he
uses a piece of language.
 Sentence meaning: (or word meaning) is what a sentence (or word)

There is often a divergence between the meaning of the linguistic expression a

speaker uses and the meaning he intends to communicate by using it. What hearers are
interested in is what the speaker means, and that leads him to ignore the fact that the
speaker's words mean something else.