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Diego Castañeda Carrizo

on 17 December 2013

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Transcript of Semantics

a) If an expression has a meaning, then it follows that it must have a denotation.

b) If two expressions have the same denotation, then they have the same meaning.

Goals of Semantics Theories
Synonymy (paraphrase)
Meaning relations
e.g: She is saying "It's getting late".
Theories of Meaning
Linguistic meaning v/s speaker meaning
What is semantics?
- Is the study of meaning, and it focuses on the relation between signifiers, and what they stand for.
The study of linguistic meaning

Role of semantics in grammar
The Denotational Theory of Meaning
- The description of meaning is a necessary part of the description of the linguistic knowledge of the speaker.

- If grammar describes a language, part of it must describe meaning.
Denotation (also called linguistic reference and semantic reference) is the relation between a linguistic expression and what is refers to.
Literal and non literal
-When we speak literally, there is not difference between speaker meaning and linguistic meaning.
- When we are speaking non literally, we mean something different from what we said.
What should a semantic theory do?
Non Literal uses of language
e.g: Such a lovely weather outside! (when is actually raining heavily)
e.g: You are such a good football player (when he/she actually is really bad at football)
Should define those properties and relations atributed to each expression
e.g: She has ruby lips, emerald eyes, teeth of pearl.
- Meaning of words can vary across dialects, depending on the region or social group you belong
Linguistic Meaning
Should explain all of the Meaning and Truth properties and relations
e.g: Bonnet = a type of hat (Ame) / the hood of a car (BrE)
- Meaning of words can vary across individual speakers within the same dialect.
How should a semantic theory handle the semantic properties and relations?
The meaning of each expression is the actual object it denotes, its denotation.
A semantic theory of a natural language should be finite.
e.g: Student = pupil, scholar, undergraduate
Ball = spheroid, sphere, globe

Phrases and sentences are compositional
Meaning Properties
Semantic Properties of words
Being Meaningful
Bachelor Unmarried adult male
A good life depends on a
– organ or a person
Property of having more than one related meaning.
The meanings of the individual words of an expression are incompatible
e.g: dear / deer
cheep / cheap
skull / scull
e.g: Bank = a side of a river / a financial institution
“The set of possible meanings of any given word is the set of possible feelings, images, ideas, concepts, thoughts, and interferences that a person might produce when that word is heard and processed”
(Glucksberg and Danks, 1975)

Procrastinate "To put things of"
e.g: large / small
hot / cold
Meaning as Images
"I rode a
Black horse in red pijamas
Meaning inclusion
- Father, uncle, stallion, and bull all express the property of male
The meaning of an expression is based on an idea or mental images that we have.
-Fortunately, luckily, happily and fortuitously all express the property "good for" something or someone
Meaning properties and meaning relations in sentences
e.g Minotaur, The Empire State Building
Chevrolet ---> Corvette

The book was not interesting at all
The book was boring.
She visited a little girl's school.
She couldn't bear children.
Truth relations
In general, mental images are just not abstract enough to be the meanings of even common nouns and verbs.
"J. F. Kennedy was assasinated"
"J. F. Kenned is dead."
"That car is too slow"
"That car is not fast enough."
Semantic presupposition
a. The present president of Chile is a dumb.
b. The present president of Chile is not dumb.
c. There is a present president of Chile.
The meaning of each expression is the idea (or ideas) associated with that expression in the mind of speakers.
Meaning as Concepts
The meaning of an expression is based on mental concepts that
we create representing categories of things.

She couldn't
children - give to birth or
put of with
There is psychological evidence that our system of cognitive classification is structured in terms of prototypes, in that some some instances of a concept are more typical (closer to prototype) than others
eg. Bird ---->


- penguin
Piece of furniture ---->

- ashtray
"Sports Illustrated"
The Sense Theory of Meaning
Frege proposed that all referring expressions with a denotation also have what he called a sense, that is to say, a way that the denotation is presented or known to the language user.
"Colorless green idea"
"Gradually plummet"
Semantic Field
Group of words in the lexicon can be semantically related
Color terms
Automobile terms
Plant names
He also proposed that whole sentences have a sense.
a) For declaratives sentences, the sense is the conditions that make the sentence true (
sentence's truth conditions
- Declaratives sentence

- Imperative sentences

- Interrogatives sentences
Truth properties
The force of an assertion

The force of a request

The force of question.
Interrogatives sentences are associated with
answerhood conditions
Imperatives sentences are associated with
compliance conditions
Truth conditions, answerhood conditions, and compliance conditions are collectively called satisfaction conditions.
The meaning of a sentence is its sense satisfaction conditions, and the meaning of a word or phrase is the contribution it makes to the satisfaction condition of the sentence it occurs in.
The Use Theory of Meaning
The meaning of an expression is its use in the language community
eg. The use of h
, or sentences about the use of
The main problem with this theory is that the relevant conception of use must be precise, and the theory must say how exactly, meaning is connected to use.
These theories help us to understand the notion of meaning, and how it works, but all theories are in various states of disarray. So, we cannot follow these theories to study the meaning of words, but we can use them as a reference.
Mentalist Theories
of Meaning
Communicative Act Potential
Structural types of communication
Declarative Sentence
Used to constate:

Assert, state, claim, etc
Imperative Sentence
Used to direct:

Order, request, command, etc
Interrogative Sentence
Used to question
Even if concepts work as meaning for some words, such as common nouns, adjectives, and maybe verbs, there are still many other kinds of words that do not have clear conceptual content, such as
, and
In conclusion, theories of meaning as entities, whether they be objects denoted, images in the mind, or concepts, all faces various difficulties.
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