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Hatice Eroğlu

on 16 December 2012

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•The study of linguistic meaning is called semantics. •Compositional semantics is the building up of phrasal or sentence meaning from the meaning of smaller units by means of semantic rules. • To account for speaker’s knowledge of the truth, reference, entailment, and ambiguity of sentences, as well as for our ability to determine the meaning of a limitless number of expressions, we must suppose that the grammar contains semantic rules that combine the meanings of words into meaningful phrases and sentences. Our semantic rules must be sensitive not only to the meaning of individual words but to the structure in which they occur. In other words, semantic rules are principles for determining the meaning of larger units like sentences from the meaning of smaller units like noun phrases and verb phrases. Semantic Rule I The meaning of [S NP VP] is the following truth condition:
If the meaning of NP (an individual) is a member of the meaning of VP (a set of individuals), then S is TRUE, otherwise it is FALSE.
For Instance; in a simple sentence like 'Jack swims'
Word Meanings;
Jack refers to (or means) the individual Jack
swims refers to (or means) the set of individuals that swim
The phrase structure tree for our sentence is as follows:
s NP VP Jack swims Rule I states that a sentence composed of a subject NP and a predicate VP is true if the subject NP refers to an individual who is among the members of the set that constitute the meaning of the VP. Semantic Rule II The meaning of [VP V NP] is the set of individuals X such that X is the first member of any pair in the meaning of V whose second member is the meaning of NP. If we have a transitive verb like in the sentence 'Jack kissed Laura.' Word Meanings;
Jack refers to (or means) the individual Jack
Laura refers to (or means) the individual Laura
kissed refers to (or means) the set of pairs of individuals X and Y such that X kissed Y.
Here is the phrase structure tree. S NP VP Jack V NP kissed Laura The meaning of the transitive verb kiss is still a set, but this time a set of pairs of individuals. The meaning of the VP, however, is still a set of individuals, namely those individuals who kissed Laura.

the meaning of the sentence becomes true whenever the meaning of Jack is a member of the set that is the meaning of the VP kissed Laura. In other words, S is true if Jack kissed Laura and false otherwise.

• These two semantic rules;

• handle an essentially infinite number of
intransitive and transitive sentences.

• account for our knowledge about the truth value of sentences by taking the meanings of words and combining them according to the syntactic structure of the sentence.

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