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Eyüp Dilber

on 30 March 2016

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Semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases and sentences
In semantic analysis: the focus on what the words
conventionally mean
rather than on what an individual speaker might think they mean, or want them to
mean, on a particular occasion.
This approach is concerned with
objective or general
avoids trying to account for subjective or local
we all know when we behave
as if we share knowledge
of the meaning of a word, a phrase, or a sentence in a language.
While semantics is the study of meaning in language, there is more interest in certain
aspects of meaning than in others
Perceptual meaning covers basic, essential components of meaning that are conveyed by the literal use of a word
It is the type of meaning that dictionaries are designed to describe
Some of the basic components of a word like needle in English
might include “thin, sharp, steel instrument.”
Different associations or connotations attached to a word like needle: “pain,” or “illness,” or “blood,” or “drugs,” or “thread,” or “knitting,” or “hard to find” (especially in a haystack), and these associations may differ from one person to the next.
the study of basic conceptual meaning might be helpful through the “oddness” of a sentence.
The hamburger ate the boy.
the oddness of these sentences does not derive from their
syntactic structure as it is a well-formed structure
The hamburger ate the boy
This sentence is syntactically good, but semantically odd. Since the sentence The boy ate the hamburger is perfectly acceptable.
Conceptual Meaning
Conceptual Meaning
Semantic features
the basic elements involved in differentiating the meaning of each word in a language from every other word.
table horse boy man girl woman
animate − + + + + +
human − − + + + +
female − − − − + +
adult − + - + - +
Supplementing the syntactic analysis with semantic features, we can characterize the subject of a particular verb, We can then predict which nouns (e.g. table, horse, hamburger) would make the sentence semantically odd.
The ________ is reading the newspaper.
N [+human]
Words as containers of meaning
Analyzing the conceptual components of word meaning is not without problems.
Those components or semantic features are not enough to differentiate the nouns:
advice, threat and warning.
The problem is viewing words in a language as some sort of “containers” that carry meaning components.
There is clearly more to the meaning of words than these basic types of features.
Instead of thinking of words as containers of meaning, we can look at the “roles” they
fulfill within the situation described by a sentence
semantic roles (thematic roles)
"The boy kicked the ball":
The verb describes an action (kick).
The noun phrases in the sentence describe the roles of entities, such as people and things, involved in the action.
Agent and theme
“the entity that performs the action”
(Human/non-human entities)
Theme (patient):
“the entity that is involved in or affected by the action,”
(1) The boy kicked the ball.
(2) The wind blew the ball away.
Instrument & experiencer
entity in order to perform an action
The boy cut the rope with an old razor
entity as the person who has a feeling, perception or state.
The boy feels sad.
Did you hear that noise?
Location, source & goal
Where an entity is (on the table, in the room)
Where the entity moves from (from Diyarbakır)
where it moves to is the goal (to Batman)
She squashed the bug on the floor
Agent theme location

with the magazine and handed it back to George.
instrument theme goal
Lexical relations
Not only can words be treated as containers of meaning, or as fulfilling roles in events, they can also have “relationships” with each other.
we are characterizing the meaning of each word, not in
terms of its component features, but in terms of its relationship to other words
Two or more words with very closely related meanings
They can often, though not always, be substituted for each other in sentences
almost/nearly big/large broad/wide buy/purchase
cab/taxi car/automobile couch/sofa freedom/liberty
the idea of “sameness” of meaning is not necessarily “total sameness.” One word can be appropriate in a sentence, but its synonym would be odd.
Sandy had only one answer correct on
the test, the word reply would sound odd.
in broad agreement (not wide)
in the whole wide world (not broad).
regional differences:
American: candy, chips, diaper and gasoline
British: sweets, crisps, nappy and petrol
Formal: My father purchased a large automobile
Informal: My dad bought a big car,
Two forms with opposite meanings
alive/dead big/small enter/exit fast/slow happy/sad hot/cold
long/short male/female married/single old/new rich/poor true/false
“gradable” (opposites along ascale)
I’m smaller than you and slower, sadder, colder, shorter and older, but richer.
“non-gradable” (direct opposites) also "complementary pairs”
"My grandparents aren’t alive" does indeed mean My grandparents are dead.
male/female, married/single and true/false.
“negative test” to identify non-gradable antonyms in a language, it is not always the case. For example, while undress can be treated as the opposite of
dress, it doesn’t mean “not dress.” It actually means “do the reverse of dress.”
enter/exit, pack/unpack, lengthen/shorten, raise/lower, tie/untie.
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