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SEMANTICS (PART

II)
SOCIOLINGUISTICS AND
PSYCHOLINGUISTICS FOUNDATION OF
LANGUAGE TEACHING

Reported by:
John Rey Jumauay
MAEd English Language Teaching

Sense Relationships

Lexemes of a language should be


grouped with the way they are related to
one another. The alphabetical order
followed by a dictionary keeps apart the
lexemes that should belong together.

Kinds of Sense Relations

Syntagmatic Relations
Paradigmatic Relations

Syntagmatic Relations

A syntagmatic relationship refers to the


relationship a word has with other words
that surround it.
Syntagmatic relations, the mutual
association of two or more words in a
sequence (not necessarily right next to one
another) is that the meaning of each is
affected by the other(s) and together their
meanings contribute to the meaning of the
larger unit, the phrase or sentence.

Syntagmatic relations between words


enable one to build up a picture of cooccurrence restrictions within SYNTAX,
for example, the verbs hit, kick have to
be followed by a noun (Paul hit the wall,
not *Paul hit), but sleep, doze do not
normally do so (Peter slept, not *Peter
slept the bed).

Example of Syntagmatic
Relations

eat dinner
rotten apple
the duck quacked

Paradigmatic Relations

A paradigmatic relationship refers to the


relationship between words that are the
same parts of speech and which can be
substituted for each other in the same
position within a given sentence.
a relation of choice.
Paradigmatic is a term that describes
the substitutional relationships that a
linguistic unit has with other units.

Example of Paradigmatic
Relations

For example in the sentence below (I


hunted a bear), each of the words can
be exchanged with a number of other
words without changing the basic
syntactic arrangement:
I hunted a bear. You hunted a mouse.
He fed a cat. We looked after rabbit.
The man caged a parrot.

The two types of relations are not


always easy to distinguish although
(debatable) rule of thumb for
distinguishing them is that paradigmatic
relations hold between members of the
same grammatical category, while
syntagmatic relations involve members
of different grammatical categories

On the semantic level, paradigmatic


substitutions allow items from a
semantic set to be grouped together, for
example Angela came on
Tuesday (Wednesday, Thursday, etc.),
while syntagmatic associations indicate
compatible combinations: rotten
apple, the duck quacked, rather than
*curdled apple, *the duck squeaked.

Kinds of Paradigmatic Relations

Synonymy
Hyponymy
Antonymy
Incompatibility

Synonymy

This is the relationship of sameness' of


meaning'. Though there are words which
almost have the same meaning, it should
be noted that they are rare and that their
differences could be stylistic, regional,
emotional and context to consider.
We may find synonyms which have an
identical reference meaning, but since they
have differing connotations, they can never
be truly synonymous.

This is particularly the case when words


acquire strong connotations of approval
(amelioration) or disapproval
(pejoration). We can see this by
comparing terrorist with freedom
fighter or agnostic (Greek)
with ignoramus (Latin). Both of the latter
terms express the meaning of a person
who does not know (something).

Example of Synonyms

Afraid, scared
Auto, car
Big, large, huge
Blank, empty, hollow
Bunny, rabbit, hare
Cap, hat

Example of True
Synonyms

A pair which remains more truly


synonymous (but might alter) would be
sympathy (Greek)
and compassion (Latin). Both mean
with [= having or showing] feeling, as
in the English equivalent, fellow feeling.

Some speakers will not be aware of


synonyms, so cannot make a choice.
But those with a wide lexicon will often
choose between two, or among many,
possible synonyms. This is an area of
interest to semanticists. What are the
differences of meaning in toilet, lavatory,
WC, closet, privy, bog, dunny and so
on?

Hyponymy

This relationship refers to the notion of


inclusion whereby we can say that an X
is a kind of Y (e.g. rose is a hyponym of
flower, car of vehicle, etc.) Such linguistic
classification differs in each language as
their superordinate term and the hyponyms
under one such term are different.
a word with a more specific meaning than
another more general wordof which it is
an example.

Examples of Hyponymy

The lexical representation of: red,


yellow, green, blue, purple, black, is
[+color]. Thus, we can say that: red is
a hyponym of color, and so on.
Clarinet, guitar, piano, trumpet, violin are
hyponyms because they are musical
instruments,

Antonymy

This is the relationship of oppositeness


of meaning. Although it is considered to
be the same as synonyms, they are very
different in a sense that there may be no
true synonym but there are several
kinds of antonyms.

Kinds of Antonymy

Gradable Antonym
Mongradable Antonym
Converse Terms

Gradable Antonyms

antonyms which permit the expression


of degrees (very big, quite small, etc)

Examples of Gradable Antonyms

heavy, light
fat, skinny
young, old
early, late
empty, full
dull, interesting

Mongradable Antonyms

do not permit degrees of contrast such


as single/married, male/female.
There is no continuous spectrum
between push and pull but they are
opposite in meaning

Examples of Mongradable
Antonyms

dead, alive
off, on
day, night
exit, entrance
exhale, inhale
occupied, vacant

Converse Terms

two-way contrasts that are


interdependent such as buy/sell or
parent/child; one which presupposes the
other.
There is no lexical opposite of teacher,
but teacher and pupil are opposite within
the context of their relationship.

Examples of Converse
Terms

Above and below


Employer and employee
Parent and child
Teacher and student
Buy and sell
East and west
Husband and wife
Predator and prey
Lend and borrow
Offense and defense
Slave and master

Incompatibility

Under this heading are grouped sets of lexemes that


are mutually exclusive members of the same
superordinate category such as words in the
category of color.

The relation of incompatibility is the most general


type of semantic relation among lexical items, the
meaning of which entails exclusion (e.g. Lyons
1977, Cruse 1986). According to the theoretical
approach, lexical units exhibiting a specific sense
hold a relation of incompatibility if they fall under a
common single superordinate.

Examples of Incompatibility
Lexemes

(e.g. animal: dog-cat-mouse-lion-sheep;


example from Cruse 2004).
fruit: banana apple pear orange
economic values: mobility flexibility
efficiency adaptability know-how.

Color Lexemes

The colour spectrum have no clear physical


boundaries and as such, the semantic field
of color has attracted much attention for it
demonstrates different patterns of lexical
use in a language. In English, there are 11
basic color schemes: white, black, red,
green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink,
orange, and grey. Different languages have
lesser or more lexemes for the given 11
color lexemes of English

Universality of Color

Different color terms of various


languages may lead us to conclude that
each language as a unique system in a
totally arbitrary way but a 1969 study by
B. Berlin and P. Kay claim that there is a
universal inventory of only basic color
categories and all languages uses these
11

Universality of Color
Diagram

Implications of the
Diagram

If a language has a term to the right of <, it will


also have a term to the left. However, controversy
of being the native speakers being exposed to
another language and some languages having 12
like Russian surrounds such claim but still;
research has demonstrated impressive similarities
among languages.

Polysemy or
Homonymy?

Polysemy

refers to cases where a lexeme has more than one


meaning like the word chip which can mean piece
of wood, food or electronic circuit.

Examples of confirmed Polysemy

For example, paper comes from


Greek papyrus. Originally it referred to
writing material made from the papyrus
reeds of the Nile, later to other writing
materials, and now to things such as
government documents, scientific
reports, family archives or newspapers.

Homonymy

refers to cases where two or more different


lexemes have the same shape like the
word bank as a building and bank as a
place
A homonym is one of a group of words that
share the same spelling and the same
pronunciation but have different meanings.
This usually happens as a result of the two
words having different origins. The state of
being a homonym is called homonymy.

Examples of confirmed
Homonymy

A bear (the animal) can bear (tolerate)


very cold temperatures.
The driver turned left (opposite of right)
and left (departed from) the main road.

Kinds of homonymy

Homophones

Homographs

Homophones

are lexemes which have the same


pronunciation, but different in spelling.
(e.g. threw vs through)
Homophone is a word that is
pronounced the same as another word
but differs in meaning.

Examples of
Homophones

flew (from fly), flu (influenza)


and flue (of a chimney).
addition, edition
Flower, flour

Homographs

are lexemes which have the same


spelling, but different pronunciation

Examples of
Homographs

wind (air movement or bend)


bow as in arrow vs bow as in bending or
taking a bow at the end of a
performance,
desert as in dry climate vs desert as in
leaving alone.

How to tell if a word is Polysemy


or Homonymy...

You may think two words are the same


words, but this is not so, since the
meaning is an essential feature of a
word. In some cases, the same form (as
with paper) has the same origin but this
will not always be the case. The
etymology of a lexeme will tell us where
it comes from and how it acquired a
given meaning.

Semantic Components

A further way to study lexical meaning is


by analysing lexemes into a series of
semantic features or components (e.g.
Man = ADULT, HUMAN, MALE). The said
approach has been devised by
anthropologist as a means of comparing
vocabulary from different cultures and has
been developed by semanticists as a
general framework for the analysis of
meaning..

Examples

horse [+animate, +quadruped, +equine, +adult, female]


mare [+animate, +quadruped, +equine, +adult, +female]
stallion [+animate, +quadruped, +equine, +adult, -female]
foal [+animate, +quadruped, +equine, -adult, female]
colt [+animate, +quadruped, +equine, -adult, -female]
filly [+animate, +quadruped, +equine, -adult, +female]

As a downside, it is not always easy to


decide the relevant components and
deciding the binary for some words.

Sentence Meaning

Much of the focus of traditional


semantics has been on vocabulary, but
contemporary semantics is increasingly
concerned with the analysis of sentence
meaning or, at least, of those aspects
of sentence meaning that cannot be
predicted from the sum of the individual
lexemes.

Kinds of Sentence
Meanings

Prosodic Meaning
Grammatical Meaning
Pragmatic Meaning
Social Meaning
Proposition Meaning

Prosodic Meaning

The way sentence is said, using the


prosody of language can radically
change the meaning of a sentence.
Prosody informs us of what information
in the sentence can be taken for granted
and what is of special significance

Examples

Different implications using stress


Johns bought a red CAR (not a red bicycle)
Johns bought a RED car (not a green one)
JOHNS bought a red CAR (not Michael)

Grammatical Meaning

The categories that are established by


grammatical analysis can also be
analyzed from a semantic point of view.
There is a great deal to be said about
the semantic roles played by syntactic
elements an area of study that falls
uneasily between semantics and
grammar.

Examples

John read a book yesterday.


Subject + Verb + Object + Adverbial
an actor performing an action on a goal

at a certain time

Pragmatic Meaning

The function performed by a sentence is


a discourse needs to be considered.
The meaning of a sentence may be
plain enough as it is but in some
situations may be interpreted differently.
The pragmatic study of sentence
function greatly overlaps with the field of
semantics.

Example

There is a chalk on the floor.


It can be a statement of a fact
A command (especially when a teachers

point at it)

Social Meaning

The choice of a sentence may directly


affect the social relationships between
the participants as it may convey
impressions of politeness, rudeness,
competence or distance.

Examples

The use of slang words when we talk to


people close to us and not using slang
words when talking to people for the first
time and those people who holds high
positions in society.

Propositional Meaning

Perhaps as the most important trend of


modern semantics is the investigation of
sentence meaning using ideas derived
from philosophy and logic. In this kind of
approach, distinction between sentence
and proposition is important. A proposition
is the unit of meaning that identifies the
subject matter of a statement; it describes
some state of affairs and takes the form of
a declarative sentence.

Examples

The sentences John loves


Mary and Mary is loved by John yield
statements with the same truth
value. But, the sentences John loves
Mary and Mary loves John may have
opposite truth values because the
actions in which John and Mary are
involved may not be reciprocal.

Importance of Studying
Semantics

Semantics is studied for a number of different reasons but


perhaps one of the main ones could be:
"If we view Semantics as the study of meaning then it
becomes central to the study of communication which in
turn is an important factor in how society is organised."[1]
The aim of semantics is to discover why meaning is more
complex than simply the words written down in a sentence.
Semantics will ask questions such as:
"why is the structure of a sentence important to the
meaning of the sentence?
"What are the semantic relationships between words and
sentences?"

For example consider the following sentences:

a)

Regina is an only child.


b) Regina's sister is called Martha.
Without

any knowledge about semantics intuitively we know that


only one of these sentences can be correct, despite the fact
grammatically they both make perfect sense.

Studying

semantics will allow us to explain why only one of these


sentences can be true.

[1]

[2]

Leech, G., (1981). Semantics: The Study of Meaning, 2nd edition. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Barron, P., (2009). 'Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Axe'. Northern Echo. http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/features/blogs/staff/peterbarron/4071811.Enraged_cow_injures_farmer_with_axe___/ [Accessed 02.05.2012].

THANK YOU!