Key Question: What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
Starter
1) Can you work out what the term “semantic field” might mean?
2) Read the following text, paying close attention to descriptive and
metaphorical language. Are there any
metaphorical/figurative/symbolic themes running through this
passage?
Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty ‘til this night.
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
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Semantic Field: An area, or field, of meaning, and the
words associated with that field. Semantic fields contains
words with related senses.
E.g. “Red,” “blue,” “purple” all belong to the semantic
field of…
Sense: The full range of meaning a word can have within a
language.
• The sense of “red” is the way we understand it within its
semantic field – similar to orange; different to black and
white; inclusive of shades such as burgundy, scarlet,
crimson… The full range of these sense relations gives
you the sense of “red.”
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
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So, which semantic fields are being used in the passage from
Shakespeare?
What effect does drawing on these semantic fields have?
Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,
Note
that in, order to speak of the
And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.
“sense”
oflove
a word,
haveit,tosight!
make
Did my heart
till now?we
Forswear
For I ne'er saw true (or
beauty
‘til this night.
socio-cultural
contextual)
judgements/comments.
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
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Homophone (lit. “same sound”): Two words with different spellings and
meanings, but which are pronounced indentically.
***
Hyponym (“hypo-” under): A word whose sense/meaning is included in
that of a broader, “umbrella” term. E.g., “daisy” is a hyponym of “flower.”
The abstract noun form is “hyponymy.”
Hypernym (“hyper-” over): A term that includes the senses/meanings of
its hyponyms.
Colour (hypernym)
Red (hyponym)

Meronym: A term which is included in a larger, inclusive term, because
the meronym is a part of the whole. E.g. “page,” “cover,” “spine” are
meronyms of “book.” Abstract noun: meronymy.
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
 Synonymy, polysemy, and
metaphor are
relevant to the study and notion of semantic
field. But why, or how?
 One word may, due to synonymy and/or
polysemy and/or metaphorical usage,
belong to more than one semantic field.
SF of mental
illness/insanity
SF of anger
Mad
SF of anger
SF field of fun, humour;
even friendship or
adolescence
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
 These
words come from one text.
 From which semantic field does the writer
draw these words?
Attrition, sudden death, barbed-wire
entanglements, defence, threat
 Based
on your previous answer, what might
the text be about?
• What kind of text do you think these words have been
drawn from?
 What
other topics might writers explore or
depict, using the semantic field of war?

Read the newspaper report they come from. Discuss how and why
the reporter has drawn on the semantic field of war to create these
metaphors.
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
 Semantic
fields often establish or suggest
a metaphorical or analogical relationship
between the topic being discussed and the
semantic field used to
describe/depict/explain the topic.
 Analagous: Comparable
to (in terms of
dynamics, structure etc.).
 For
example: Rugby matches are
sometimes likened to ancient Greek or
Roman battles. Why?
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
 What
are the following abstract nouns
sometimes likened to? From which
semantic fields do the
analogies/metaphors draw?
War
Beauty
Sport
Love
Evil
Kindness
(Good) Judgement
What are “semantic fields,” and how do they affect meaning?
 Write
a description of the school, or of a
bike-ride, run, walk... Any day-to-day
activity, using a particular semantic field.
Write a very brief rationale – why you
chose this semantic field (e.g. to establish
a metaphorical/analogical
relationship...), and include a useful word
or phrase bank.