BBI 3219 Semantik & Pragmatik Some things we know • These sentences describe the same situation: – The small blue circle is in front of the square. – The square is behind the small blue circle. We are also capable of verifying that both sentences are true in this particular situation. This is because we know what the world must be like in order for these sentences to be true. Some things we know • We know that the following sentence can mean more than one thing (it is ambiguous): – She drove past the bank. This seems to be related to our knowledge of what bank denotes. Semantics • Semantics is the branch of linguistics that deals with the study of meaning, changes in meaning, and the principles that govern the relationship between sentences or words and their meanings. • It is the study of the relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent. Gay noble beautiful, excellent homosexual stupid bright, lively-looking cheerful, carefree, merry dedicated to social pleasures, promiscuous, frivolous (woman) leading immoral life Wicked bad in various extended senses (e.g. wounds, quality) excellent, splendid, remarkable malicious, mischievous, sly (jocular use) bad in moral character • The study of the linguistic meaning of morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences is called Semantics. • The study of semantics includes the study of how meaning is constructed, interpreted, clarified, obscured, illustrated, simplified, negotiated, contradicted, and paraphrased. Some important areas of semantic theory or related subjects include these: • Symbol and referent • Conceptions of meaning • Words and lexemes • Denotation, connotation, implication • Pragmatics • Ambiguity • Metaphor, simile and symbol • Semantic fields • • • • Synonym, antonym and hyponym Semantic change and etymology Polysemy Homonymy, homophones and homographs • Lexicology and lexicography • Epistemology • Colour Subfields of semantics: 1. Lexical (of or relating to the vocabulary, words, or morphemes of a language) semantics - meanings of words, and the meaning relationships among words; 2. Phrasal or sentential semantics concerned with the meaning of syntactic units larger than the word. • The study of how context affects meaning is called Pragmatics. • For example, the sentence "It's cold in here" can be interpreted in certain situations as "close the windows". What is meaning? ‘Aboutness’ of natural language • A noise that I make when I speak or a scribble that I produce when I write words in English or a signlanguage gesture I make are physical objects that convey meanings, they are about something • We use language to communicate, to talk about things in the world, people and their properties, relations between people, events, in short about the way the world is, should be, could have been … • Semantics involves the most abstract level of linguistic analysis, since we cannot see or observe meaning as we can observe and record sounds. • Meaning is related very closely to the human capacity to think logically and to understand. • So when we try to analyze meaning, we are trying to analyze our own capacity to think and understand our own ability to create meaning. Can we define meanings in terms of their physical properties? • Linguistic forms usually lack any physical resemblance with the entities that they stand for. Can we define meanings in terms of their physical properties? • The connection between a word and what it stands for is ARBITRARY - there is no relationship between the way a word is pronounced (or signed) and its meaning. • “The ARBITRARINESS of the linguistic sign” (Ferdinand de Saussure, 1916, Cours de linguistique générale) is one of the defining properties of human language. Language and the world • But in characterising knowledge of meaning, we also have the problem of distinguishing linguistic knowledge from world knowledge • E.g. What is the meaning of the word man or ostrich? – Is your knowledge of the meaning independent of your experience of the world? – Are you born with an innate knowledge of such words? Knowledge of language and the world semantics How do we account for the relationship between words and concepts? How do we decode the meaning of complex sentences? How is linguistic meaning related to the world? concepts/ thoughts things & situations Indirect relation between word and world WORD house CONCEPT THOUGHT IDEA SENSE possibly IMAGE ? IS IT IN YOUR MIND? THING IN THE WORLD Gold is getting more and more expensive. • What idea, concept, thought or image do you think of when you hear this sentence? • For EVERY PERSON, the word gold evokes a DIFFERENT PICTURE, IDEA, CONCEPT, etc.; yet that does not prevent us all from using the word with the same meaning. • This means that the word gold applies to something general, or possibly even universal. Where is meaning? – The meaning of words cannot be derived from their physical properties, – It cannot be reduced to the real-world objects or their perception, and – It cannot be reduced to the particular image in my or your mind. • The meaning of words is to be derived from the relations between words, concepts and things in the real world. Levels of Meaning 1. Sentence / Expression meaning – the linguistic meaning sentence 2. Utterance meaning – meaning of the sentence in a particular context Expression meaning • The meanings of words, phrases and sentences, taken out of context, in their general sense constitute the level of meaning . • Covers word meaning and sentence meaning. • Literal/conventionalised meaning o“core meaning”, independent of context o this belongs to semantics proper Sentence / expression meaning 1. Corresponds to phrasal meaning or sense i.e. the compositional meaning of the sentence as constructed out of the meanings of its individual component lexemes I don't need your bicycle. • need, bicycle content words • I, do, not, your function words 2. context-independent 3. The meaning of content words are concepts. It describes what it refers to, i.e. it is descriptive meaning 4. The meaning of function words contributes to the descriptive meaning of the sentence. • Uncovering the knowledge of the meanings of words and sentences and revealing its nature are the central objectives of semantics. Determine the meaning of the sentence in (1): (1) I like your shirt. The description of meaning must be specific enough to distinguish it from all other words with different meanings Utterance Meaning • The meaning that results from using an expression in a given context of utterance (CoU). • CoU the sum of circumstances that bear on reference and truth. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. The speaker The addressee(s) / recipients The time The place The facts Utterance Meaning – Speaker meaning & context • What a speaker means when they say something, over and above the literal meaning. • This and other “contextual” effects belong to pragmatics Oh well done! Pass it over here. (4) Son: I’ve fixed the toy. Dad: Oh well done! Pass it over here. (5) Jane: Sorry, I think I’ve broken it. Bob: Oh well done! Pass it over here. More examples: (6) Jack: Would you like something to eat? Laura: I’ve just had lunch. (7)Jack: How was that new restaurant you went last night? Laura: The walls were a nice colour. Implied meaning - Implicature To successfully analyse meaning as used by speakers of a language, we need to distinguish various aspects of a communicative situation So did you like the food? You made great black coffee. Utterances vs. sentences • Consider the sentence: – John stole the meat pie. • Every time this sentence is spoken, the result is a new utterance of the same sentence. • There can be many utterances of the same sentence. Utterance • A speaker’s production of a linguistic signal in a specific context of use. • This is inevitably bound to the context: • • • • who it is addressed to the physical surroundings disfluencies etc Sentence • The abstract grammatical object that an utterance represents. – Roughly, this focuses only on grammar and lexicon. • Reasons to distinguish from utterance: – There can be many utterances of the same sentence. – We can quote somebody else, extracting the sentence that underlies their utterance: She said that John stole the meat pie. – The distinction gives us a way of abstracting aspects of language from their specific context of use Study of sentence / linguistic meaning = Semantics Study of utterance / speaker meaning = Pragmatics (8) You made great black coffee. (9) I’ve just had lunch. (10)The walls were a nice colour. Sentences have invariant/context-independent properties in virtue of the meaning of the words. Utterances are fairly concrete things: they happen; they’re spoken. The meaning of utterance is contextdependent. Semantics vs. pragmatics • Many linguists make a distinction between – Literal/conventionalised meaning • “core meaning”, independent of context • This belongs to semantics proper – Speaker meaning & context • What a speaker means when they say something, over and above the literal meaning. • This and other “contextual” effects belong to pragmatics • NB. The distinction between semantics and pragmatics is not hard and fast Which of those figures is the Princess of Spain? Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas (Museo Prado, Madrid) • There are many ways to reply: – the girl in the white dress – the girl in the middle – the person being tended to by the kneeling maid Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas (Museo Prado, Madrid) Reference • These different expressions mean different things, have different content. • However, they all pick out the same entity in this context (the Princess of Spain). – i.e. they refer to the princess of Spain • In a different context, the girl in the white dress could pick out something different. – Sometimes, it can fail to pick out anything. • an action on the part of a speaker • it is context-bound Reference is a relationship between parts of a language and things outside the language (in the world). • my house - represent something outside of these words, there’s a meaning to them • The meaning comes from the fact that the words represent, or symbolize, or indicate, or refer to some real object in the real world. All such correspondences between words and what the words refer to are called references. • Any two expressions which refer to the same thing in the real world have the same referent. The referent is the real world thing indicated by the words. • My favourite place to buy mobile phones is The Mines Shopping Centre. Refer to the same place in the real world Two expressions with the same referent Think of a referent. Find 2 or more ways to describe the same thing in different words. • What would be the referent of the phrase the present President of the United States used: (a) In 2011? (b) in 2001? • Therefore we can say that the phrase the present President of the United States has variable reference. • Does the reference of an expression vary according to (a) the circumstances (time, place, etc.) in which the expression is used, or (b) the topic of the conversation in which the expression is used, or (c) both (a) and (b)? Reference Different types of reference Three classes of reference: • Definite reference: the entity referred to is UNIQUELY identifiable from context, e.g. The boy kicked my dog. • Indefinite reference: the entity referred to is NOT UNIQUELY identifiable from context, e.g. A boy kicked my dog. • Generic reference: it refers to a whole class of entities rather than to individual members of it, e.g. Dogs are animals./Tigers are found in Asia. (dogs and tigers here are referred to as a species). Reference and denotation: often used interchangeably, e.g. “the word Labrador denotes/refers to a kind of dog”; As distinguished by Lyons (1977) and Saeed (2003): • Denotation = a stable relationship between a word/phrase in a language and the thing/class of things it stands for in the world; • Reference = the use of a word/phrase to pick out something in the world, relevant to some situation. • Therefore, denotation/denote is context-free, whereas reference/refer is context-dependent (i.e. reference occurs in language use) • Referent: the entity picked out by an act of reference. E.g. The referent of your Labrador in I like your Labrador is a particular kind of dog which is large in size and often used by blind people. Two major theories of reference • The Denotational theory: – direct relationship between words and the world – meaning = the relationship between linguistic expressions and things/situations • The Representational theory: – the relationship between words and the world is mediated by our mental model Denotation • The denotation of an expression is whatever it denotes. • Sentences, words and so forth – in a language were said to denote aspects of the world. The denotational theory • ‘Meaning’ manifests itself in the link between language (i.e. words) and the world. • Language enables us to describe the world. We can talk about things. I met Tony Blair in London last week. Tony Blair refers/denotes its bearer: a person named Tony Blair • Reference (denotation) • Referent (denotatum) The denotation relation constitutes the most fundamental semantic relation. Referential/Denotational Approach •Reference as a theory of meaning: Semantics is reference, the so-called referential approach. • Problems for the referential approach (a) not all the linguistic expressions have reference; (b) nominals like a unicorn, will never have a reference; (c) no one-to-one correspondence for referring expressions: names, definite descriptions, etc.; and (d) two expressions can refer to the same individual, but with meaning differences, i.e. different senses. Reference vs. Denotation • So denotation is a stable relationship between expressions and things: – The word ħuta (“fish”) always denotes a certain kind of thing in the world. It can only apply to a specific set of objects. – This is independent of who uses the word and when. – This is denotation or extension • Reference depends on speakers and contexts: – I can use ħuta to refer to different individual fish in different situations – So in different situations, my use can pick out different referents Sense and reference • The reference of an expression is what it stands for on a given occasion of its use. • The sense of an expression is the way the reference is presented. – a thought, the proposition, the information content grasped in understanding a sentence. – But senses are not subjective, differing from one person to the next. We share senses. Sense and Reference a. The morning star is the morning star b. The morning star is the evening star • Both the morning star and the evening star pick out the same entity, Venus, and so have the same reference. • But they have different senses. the morning star = the star you see in the morning at time 1 at latitude 1; the evening star = the star you see in the evening at time 2 latitude 2. • So in (1a), reference and sense coincide: The expressions on both sides of the copula have the same reference and sense. • In (1b) the two expressions have the same reference but a different sense. Sense and Reference • Expressions can have a sense, but no reference. • One can know what an expression means but not know its reference, e.g, the star furthest from the earth. • But expressions which have the same sense must have the same reference, while expressions with the same reference may have different senses. Reference and approaches to semantics • To fulfill the task of describing meaning, linguists have proposed different approaches with respect to ‘reference’. • Some researchers take a direct view of meaning (referential/denotational theory of meaning): Meanings to be described in terms of relationships between language and the world, i.e. direct connection between words/expressions and objects/things in the world. • Others take an indirect view of meaning (representational theory of meaning): Meanings to be described in terms of mental representations of the world, i.e. they are mindinterim in the sense that humans use language to make sense of the world (things or events) through their mental processes. The direct view of reference • Words/phrases mean because they denote objects/things in the world, and sentences mean because they denote situations/events, which implies a direct relation between words and the world. Proper nouns -> individuals (e.g. Jackie Chan, Beijing) Common nouns -> sets of individuals (e.g. bird, cat, elephant) verbs -> actions or states (e.g. drive, sing; love, resemble) adjectives -> properties of individuals (e.g. an elegant woman. The actor is humorous) adverbs -> properties of actions (e.g. He drives fast. She sings beautifully.) Indirect View of Reference • Words, phrases and sentences mean by representing aspects of a mentally projected world; the mentally projected world may or may not correspond closely to the actual world (cf. memories). Thus meanings should be described in terms of mental representations (of the objects/situations in the world). Evidence for an indirect view of reference: 1)Within languages: speakers can choose to depict the same situation in different ways, e.g. verbal aspect, voice alternations, which casts doubt on the direct view of the relation between words and objects, sentences and situations. [context: conversation took place at 9:30-9:32 a.m.] Q: Have you seen Prof. Pinker? A: I talked/was talking to him this morning. [context: Tom appears with bandaged hand] Q: What happened to Tom? A1: His cat scratched him/He got scratched by his cat. The representational theory The relationship between expressions (words, sentences) and things in the world is mediated by the mind. This is a cognitivist view. linguistic expressions mental model of the world things & situations Conceptualisation across languages English Somali Irish You have a cold. Hargab baa ku haya. Tá slaghdán ort. a.cold FOCUS you has is a.cold on.you Lit. ‘A cold has you.’ Lit. ‘A cold is on you.’ Q: Is semantic/conceptual structure universal? (Lyons 1977: much of it is not) Different conceptualizations influence the description of the real-world situations Representational Theory Emphasis is on the way that our reports about reality are influenced by the conceptual structures conventionalised in our language Summary • Referential/denotational theories of meaning hold that linguistic meaning derives from language attached to, or grounded in, reality, thus excluding the role of mental representation, whereas representational theories of meaning contend that linguistic meaning derives from language being a reflection of our conceptual structures, thus suggesting that reference relies on our conceptual knowledge. Concepts and mental representation Why concepts? • Without a way of categorising things and situations, human cognition would break down. • Concepts provide: – a way to organise similar experiences under more general categories; – a way of establishing relationships among those categories; – a way of making generalisations about things. Conceptual structure and language MIND/THOUGHT LANGUAGE WORLD Words and expressions do not refer directly to the world. What’s in your head? • Under the representational view, concepts underlie the meanings of words • What could a concept be? Concepts as images • Do we have a “mental picture” of things? • But not everybody has the same picture… • So how do we understand each other? dog What’s your picture of DOG? ??? dog Beyond the image theory • Much of the work in mentalistic, cognitive or conceptual linguistics is concerned with categorization Theories of concepts : the classical view • A concept like GIRL is simply the set of features which distinguish it from other concepts – GIRL = human, not adult, female … • Essentially, to know a concept = to know a list of necessary and sufficient conditions (a kind of definition). – View dating back to Aristotle. – Dominated psychology until the 1960s Necessary and sufficient conditions Example: chair • We might characterize its meaning in terms of a conjunction (of a fixed set) of the following conditions: A given object counts as a CHAIR if and only if it is (a) a piece of furniture (b) for one person (c) to sit on (d) having a back, and (e) four legs. Necessary and sufficient conditions Chair (a) a piece of furniture (b) for one person (c) to sit on (d) having a back, and (e) four legs. Such necessary and sufficient conditions work well for certain things that we call kitchen chairs. • But what about office chairs dentist chairs beanbag chairs barber chairs electric chairs ? Objections to the classical view • Most concepts simply can’t be analysed like this. – What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for the concept GAME? (Wittgenstein, 1953) • Many concepts have fuzzy boundaries. • We often use words without knowing the true nature of things – Do you need to know the chemical make-up of aluminium in order to know the word? – Putnam (1975): We rely on experts a lot of the time, a division of linguistic labour Mentalistic, cognitive theories of meaning • Problem of categorization: many words describe concepts that have no clear category boundaries and that not all members of a given category have an equal status. • Words like CHAIR are not defined in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, but instead categorized around good, clear exemplars like KITCHEN CHAIRS, and that these good exemplars or PROTOTYPES serve as reference points for the categorization of not so clear instances. Mentalistic, cognitive theories of meaning • Words like CHAIR are not defined in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, but instead categorized around good, clear exemplars like KITCHEN CHAIRS, and that these good exemplars or PROTOTYPES serve as reference points for the categorization of not so clear instances. – Members of the category like CHAIR can be graded in terms of their typicality. – Membership in a prototype category is a matter of gradience. Mentalistic, cognitive theories of meaning • Among things that we call ‘chairs’, there are – better examples of the category ‘chair’ like kitchen chairs and some are – less good examples like dentist chairs and some are – very marginal examples like beanbag chairs and electric chairs. Prototype Theory • Extensively studied by psychologist Eleanor Rosch in the 1970’s. • Central argument is that concepts have internal structure, with some members being “better” than others: • Example: BIRD: • ‘warm-blooded, egg-laying, feathered vertebrae with forelimbs modified to form wings’ (dictionary definition) – central/typical members (sparrow) – peripheral members (ostrich, penguin) • There is a gradient from centre to periphery Prototype example Evidence I: Goodness of exemplar • Experimental subjects are shown pictures of different things of the same category (e.g. VEGETABLE) – Asked to rate each one in terms of how good an example of the category they are. – E.g. carrot, turnip, cabbage, beetroot, lemon • Subjects tend to be quite homogeneous in agreeing on what typical and not-so-typical members are. – (As long as they come from the same cultural group) Evidence II: Prototype effects • Order of mention: Under time pressure, when asked to list members of a category, subjects tend to list the prototypical members first. • Acquisition: prototypical members tend to be acquired first. • Learning: kids learn new words faster if taught the meaning with reference to the prototype. Consequences of prototypes • Views concepts as having fuzzy boundaries – some things might qualify as CHAIR, but they might not be typical – some things qualify as RED, but others are between RED and PURPLE Conceptual Organisation Feature-based representation • Prototype theory raises the problem of how concepts are actually represented in the mind. • One possibility is to list features of members of a category: – the more features an object has, the more typical it is – e.g. BIRD typically has feathers, flies, etc Conceptual relationships • Concepts seem to be organised in a taxonomy • Things higher up include the ones lower down ANIMAL BIRD CANARY MAMMAL SPARROW Levels of conceptual representation • Rosch et al. 1976 propose 3 levels FURNITURE CHAIR ARMCHAIR Superordinate Or “top” level TABLE Basic level: This is the level we tend to use and think about Subordinate level: Much more specific Hierarchical representations and inheritance ANIMAL Moves Eats breathes • A node in a conceptual network inherits some properties from its Flies BIRD superordinate Has feathers • It can also add new properties of its own Does not fly OSTRICH • It can override properties of the superordinate Properties of the basic level 1. The easiest to visualise: – easier to imagine a CAR (basic) than a FIAT PUNTO (subordinate) 2. Used for neutral, everyday usage: – we’re more likely to say “that’s a dog” than “that’s a dachshund” 3. Names of basic-level categories tend to be morphologically simple – Compare: spoon vs. teaspoon, soup spoon… More properties of the basic level 4. high distinctiveness maximally different from other categories 5. strong within-category resemblance objects within the category resemble eachother more than they do objects outside the category 6. optimal level of informativeness: it’s more informative to say “x is a dog” than “x is an animal” but in most cases, saying “x is a dachshund” is too specific… What’s the relationship between concepts, language and thought? • Strong Universalist view: – The way we think is completely independent of language. – Therefore, thought and concepts are largely independent of linguistic differences. • Strong Relativist view: – Relativism: Language reflects the culture in which it is spoken. • Cultural differences result in linguistic differences. – Determinism: Language determines our way of thinking. • Linguistic differences, reflecting cultural differences, result in differences in ways of thinking and conceptualising the world. Universalism vs. relativism Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis • Theory of Linguistic Relativity • Popularized by Linguist Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Lee Whorf • What one perceives is dependent on the spoken word. • Thought is dependent on language. • One’s language shapes one’s view of reality. • A mould theory in that it “represents language as a mould in terms of which thought categories are cast” (Chandler, 2002, p.1) - thought is cast from language - what you see is based on what you say. • Edward Sapir viewed language as part of culture, shaping us and our world views and thoughts: – The fact of the matter is that the 'real world' is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group . . . . We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation. (Sapir 1929) • Sapir’s student Benjamin Lee Whorf took this further: – “We cut nature up, organise it into concepts … because we are party to an agreement … that holds through our speech community and is codified in … our language” (Whorf, 1956) Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis • Can be divided into two basic components: 1. Linguistic Determinism 2. Linguistic Relativity. Linguistic determinism • Refers to the concept that what is said, has only some effect on how concepts are recognized by the mind. This basic concept has been broken down even further into “strong” and “weak” determinism (The Sapir-Whorf Hypotheses, 2002, p.1). • Asserts that language determines the way we think, that is, the grammar, semantics or lexicon in a natural language shape thought. • “Strong” - language and thought are equaled, a variant that almost nobody advocates. • “Weak” - Thought may be influenced by language. Linguistic Relativity • The Linguistic Relativity hypothesis suggests that language, culture and thought are closely interlinked. • This is largely reflected in the semantic structure of language. • Whorf paid particular attention to how differences in grammar give rise to different ways of thinking. Time: an example from Whorf • Whorf compared the conception of time in English and Hopi (American Indian). • English conceptualises recurrent phases like ordinary objects. E.g.: – we speak of 10 days as we do of 10 men • Hopi has no equivalent of 10 days [sic]. – English: They stayed 10 days. – Hopi: They stayed until the 11th day. – English objectifies time in terms of units; Hopi conceptualises time in terms of a stretch. Time in English • In English, time is a formless “substance” which is divided into phases, periods etc. – use of nouns for stretches of time (seasons etc): this summer; it is a hot summer – “time” is a substance, “contained” in these phases – spatial metaphors for time: long, short, quick, slow… • Whorf suggested that this leads to an objectifying tendency in the way we think of abstractions like “time”. Time in Hopi • Hopi does not use nouns for phases. Most expressions are adverbials. – emphasis on the relation between earlier and later and while • The Hopi word for morning would be translated as while morningphase is occurring. – less tendency to use spatial metaphors – more tendency to view time as a factor influencing things as they age or change – less tendency to identify events as single, individual occurrences • Whorf suggested that this leads to more emphasis on the “subjective” passing of time. Why does this matter? • It seems obvious that languages differ in the concepts they encode as words. • Equally “obvious” is the idea that a people will have developed words that are most useful in their environment. • At the same time, people in different cultures seem to have a lot in common, biologically and psychologically. – We would expect all languages to have words for food, drink, air, person… SENSE RELATIONS Sense Relations • relations between concepts or meanings. • semantic relation between units of meaning • There are various types of sense relation e.g. synonymy and homonymy. Synonymy • Two expressions α, β of a language are called SYNONYMS if they mean the same. • Thesaurus Writer Scribbler [slang] Penman Word-slinger Amanuensis Secretary Pen or pencil driver or pusher [slang] Recording Secretary Clerk Letterer Copier Transcriber Chirographer [i.e. a person whose job it is to write] Calligrapher Do all these words really ‘mean the same thing’? Synonymy Writer Scribbler [slang] Penman Word-slinger Amanuensis Secretary Pen or pencil driver or pusher [slang] Recording Secretary Clerk Letterer Copier Transcriber Chirographer [i.e. a person whose job it is to write] Calligrapher • They all have to do with the activity of writing. • ‘Loosely synonymous’ - they belong to the same semantic field. Synonymy • Does ‘strict’ synonymy ever exist? • Are there words in the language that have exactly the same meaning? • What about nouns like ‘couch’, ‘settee’ and ‘sofa’? Is there a difference in meaning between these words? • Ullman - strict synonymy does not exist no two words are ever completely inter-changeable. There are always differences of register (i.e. formality and informality), dialect, or distribution of usage to distinguish words and meanings. Synonymy • Consider the following. Are the words similar? (i) brave:courageous • Little Billy was so brave at the dentist's this morning. • Little Billy was so courageous at the dentist's this morning. (ii) calm:placid • She was quite calm just a few minutes ago. • She was quite placid just a few minutes ago. (iv) almost:nearly • She looks almost Chinese. • She looks nearly Chinese. Synonymy • Consider the following. Are the words similar? (i) brave:courageous • Little Billy was so brave at the dentist's this morning. (+) • Little Billy was so courageous at the dentist's this morning. (-) (ii) calm:placid • She was quite calm just a few minutes ago. (+) • She was quite placid just a few minutes ago. (-) (iv) almost:nearly • She looks almost Chinese. (+) • She looks nearly Chinese. (-) '+' indicates "relatively more normal" '-' indicates "relatively less normal" Synonymy • Lyons: strict synonymy is possible – Absolute synonymy Two words that are strictly synonymous in some contexts, need not be synonymous in others. e.g sofa : settee, pullover : sweater Very rare How are these terms different? 1. 2. 3. 4. Movie Film Flick Motion picture 1. 2. 3. 4. Movie Film Flick Motion picture • These are synonyms because they refer to the same set of referents in the real world – same denotative meaning. • However, these words differ in their connotative meanings. 1. Movie – American 2. Film – British or appropriate for movie classics / art movies 3. Flick – informal contexts 4. Motion picture – has connotations as a term from the thirties or forties of the 20th century NOT ABSOLUTE SYNONYMS • Fast, quick and rapid may be considered as synonyms because they may be used interchangeably in reference to someone’s running speed: He’s a fast/quick/rapid runner. • Compare: a fast talker vs a quick talker fast lane vs rapid lane quick mind vs rapid mind vs fast mind Are they the same? Fast, quick and rapid are not true synonyms. • Quite often, words that appear synonymous at first glance actually refer to slightly different sets of concepts or are used in different situations. • If two terms have the same referent, the meaning of one of them is usually modified to express differences in referential, social or affective meaning. e.g. mother, Mum, Mom, Mummy, Mommy Partial synonymy • Partial synonymy is a relation in which a polysemous word (several related meanings) shares one of its meanings with another word. • For example, one meaning of deep is synonymous with profound in: 1a. You have my deep sympathy. 1b. You have my profound sympathy 2a. The river is very deep at this point. 2b. *The river is very profound at this point Partial synonymy • The following pairs of words are partial synonyms, i.e. they do not share all their senses. For each pair, (a) give a sentence in which the two can be used interchangeably; (b) give another sentence in which only one of them can be used. 1. Strong / powerful 2. Soil / earth Polysemy • Polysemy is a relation in which a single word has two or more slightly different but closely related meanings. e.g. The noun chip has the three following meanings: (i) a small piece of some hard substance which has been broken off from something larger: a chip of wood/glass. (ii) a small cut piece of potato which is fried for eating: Can I try one of your chips? (iii) a small but vital piece of a computer: This computer has got a faster chip than the old one • The three meanings are closely related because they all contain the semantic feature [+small piece]. Polysemy • The verb break has the two following meanings: (i) separate into two or more parts as a result of force or strain (but not cutting): He broke that cup. (ii) become unusable by being damaged; make (something) unusable by damaging: My watch is broken. • The two meanings are closely related because both contain the semantic feature [+can no longer be used]. Polysemy • Other examples of polysemy: 1. Head : body part, top of a company or department 2. Foot : body part, bed, mountain, etc. Homonymy • A relation in which various words have the same (sound and written) form but have different meanings. e.g. bank i. a financial institution ii. the shore of a river bear i. a large heavy animal with thick fur (n) ii. give birth to (v) iii. Tolerate (v) Homophony • a relation in which various words have the same sound form (pronunciation) but have different meanings and written forms hour vs. our place vs. plaice bare vs. bear flour vs. flower Homography • relation in which various words have the same written form but have different meanings and sound forms. lead Does this road lead to town? Lead is a heavy metal read vs. read Antonymy • a relation in which two words have different (written and sound) forms and are opposite in meaning pass vs. fail hot vs. cold thinner vs fatter buy vs sell Binary antonymy (complementaries) • a relation in which two members of a pair of antonyms: 1. are mutually exclusive: not alive is dead and not dead is alive. 2. cannot be used in a comparative or superlative sense *He is more single/more married than his brother. 3. cannot be used in questions with how to ask about degrees: *How single/How married is he? Obey vs disobey; inside vs outside; stop vs continue Gradable (polar) antonymy • a relation in which two members of a pair of antonyms: 1. are gradable: between hot and cold are three “intermediate terms” [Palmer, 1981: 95] warm, tepid (or lukewarm) and cool 2. can be used in a comparative or superlative sense: wider is less narrow, more difficult is less easy, etc. 3. can be used in questions with how to ask about degrees How difficult is the test? Antonyms • The distinction between binary antonymy and gradable antonymy is sometimes blurred by language users. • E.g. alive vs dead binary antonyms • However, we do have expressions like halfdead, barely alive, and more dead than alive, which suggest that, in some contexts, we see alive and dead as gradable antonyms. Relational antonymy • Two members of a pair of relational antonyms display symmetry in their meaning. • The “if…, then …” formula can be used to test and identify relational antonyms: – if Mr. Brown is Jack’s employer, then Jack is Mr. Brown’s employee; – if Jenny is thinner than Mary, then Mary is fatter than Jenny; – if John bought a car from Fred, then Fred sold a car to John; etc. Hyponymy • a relation in which the referent of a word is totally included in the referent of another word. • In other words, hyponymy is the relationship between each of the hyponyms (the “lower” word) and its superordinate (the “higher” word) • Also referred to as subordinates / specific lexical items Hyponymy Hyponymy • Hyponyms often exist at more than one level, resulting in multiple layers of hyponymic relationships: Colour In this case, blue is a word that has a hyponym and a superordinate at the same time. Since turquoise, aquamarine and royal blue refer to different shades of blue, these words are IMMEDIATE hyponyms [Palmer: 1981: 87] of blue. The word blue in its turn is, along with many other colour terms, an IMMEDIATE hyponym of colour. Meronymy • Meronymy (Greek meros: ‘part’) is the relation of part to whole hand is a meronym of arm seed is a meronym of fruit blade is a meronym of knife • Conversely, arm is the holonym of hand, fruit is the holonym of seed, etc.). Meronymy • This relationship is essentially based on a close connection in everyday experience. • It may be container-content relation (canjuice); a whole-part relation (car-wheels); or a representative-symbol relation (king-crown). Hyponomy • A relation of inclusion: ‘dog’ & ‘poodle’ are hyponyms of ‘animal’ ‘poodle’ is a hyponym of ‘dog’ • Conversely, ‘animal’ is a hypernym (or superordinate) of ‘dog’, and ‘dog’ is a hypernym of ‘poodle’. Meronym vs Hyponym • Hyponymy = a relation of inclusion • Meronymy = a kind of part-whole relationship Clutch, brake, engine meronyms of car (because they are parts of a car) Please note that the two are not the same. A poodle is a type of dog and a cheetah is a kind of cat, but a leaf is not type of tree and a clutch is not a type of car. How can we describe the meaning of different words? • Three types of semantic analysis: – Words as ‘containers’ Semantic features – ‘roles’ they fulfill Semantic roles – ‘relationship’ with other words lexical relation POLYSEMY • the phenomenon when a single word has two or more meanings • The house is at the foot of the mountains • One of his shoes felt too tight for his foot The difference between the meanings can be obvious or subtle. Polysemy vs Homonymy • If you hear (or read) two words that sound (or are written) the same but are not identical in meaning, you need to decide if it's really two words (homonyms), or if it is one word used in two different ways (polysemy). Examples of homonymy • a. Sarah climbed down the ladder. • b. Sarah bought a down blanket • a. My dog would always bark at mailmen. • b. The tree's bark was a rusty brown. Questions ?