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Semantics – inferred meanings
KS5 > Language library > Language basics
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I really like the clarity of this resource. The ideas the students need to
understand are explained concisely and the activities get the students
to think them through for themselves. I love the car names activity,
and could see that generating great project ideas and classroom
discussion. What I particularly like is that this list is a bit dated. That’s
a virtue because it allows space for students to add their own
observations and/or to go out and investigate for themselves the most
recent new car names.
Try this!
You could add a bit more to the synonymous triplets activity by using
the Language Triplets activity in the Teachit Language Change scheme.
This draws out more fully the role of language origin in English
I’d really be looking to extend the car names activity as noted above.
I’d also think about linking this to language and gender, getting students
to find out as much as they could about the target audience for the
advertising of certain cars, and exploring whether there is any
connection to the kinds of names used. This would explore the
semantic issue of connotation in more depth, but stronger students
could also investigate whether there might be a morphological
relationship with gender. I’d get them to look at the gender/name pie
charts on page 153 of Crystal’s Encyclopedia of the English Language as a
way into thinking about how to investigate this.
If I were in need of a bit of intellectual respite care for a lesson or two
I’d probably go Blue Peter and get students to do poster presentations
of their findings. A bit of glue and sugar paper is a good thing
occasionally, I find …
For homework, I’d perhaps get them to research names of other kinds
of product, e.g. perfume or cosmetic names (compare male and female,
Brut 33 versus Poison?), sweets (why DO we want Marathons back?),
All in all, the kind of resource that suggests as many new possibilities as
it provides – bonzer.
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Semantics: Inferred meanings
When thinking about English Language, you must remember to examine the
relationship between a word / group of words and its meaning. Do not forget that
any word is merely a symbol chosen to represent an object or a concept. There is
no logical reason for the word “cat” representing a furry four-legged feline animal.
Of course, we can create meaning through language using more indirect methods
than simply naming objects or emotions. Two key areas to consider are the issues
of synonyms and connotations.
• Synonyms
Because English is a language drawn up from many different sources (Anglo-Saxon,
Latin, French, Norse, Greek to name a few) we have many different words
expressing the same concept:
Royal / Regal / Kingly
Rich / Wealthy / Moneyed
Killing / Murder / Homicide / Slaughter
These are known as synonyms, but they convey different shades of meaning.
What do you think these are?
• Activity: Think of as many synonyms as you can for:
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Semantics: Inferred meanings
• Denotation and Connotation
The denotation of a word is its dictionary definition (eg Spinster = an unmarried
female above the conventional age for marrying). The connotation is the emotional
or psychological associations it may have (eg a lonely old woman, unwanted and
unloved, sitting alone with her cats). Connotations may arise due to the origin of the
word, who uses the word, or where the word is normally used. Connotations are
therefore what language users are exploiting when they choose synonyms.
• Activity: Look at this list of car names. Select five and analyse the connotations of
each, thinking about the origin of the name, what it suggests about the car, and
who you think the manufacturers are trying to target. Have any of these words
acquired connotations since becoming names of cars?
Alfa Romeo
Sprint – Cloverleaf – Veloce – Spider – Montreal
Metro – City – Allegro – Maestro – Princess
Avenger – Hunter
Athena – Pallas – Safari
Celeste – Shogun
Domino – Charmant
Panda – Uno – Argenta
Fiesta – Escort – Mexico – Cortina
Civi – Accord
Beetle – Golf – Jetta
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