The History of Semantics
semantics [Gr. ,=significant] in general, the study of the relationship between words and meanings. The empirical study of word meanings and sentence meanings in existing languages is a branch of linguistics; the abstract study of meaning in relation to language or symbolic logic systems is a branch of philosophy. Both are called semantics. The field of semantics has three basic concerns: the relations of words to the objects denoted by them, the relations of words to the interpreters of them, and, in symbolic logic, the formal relations of signs to one another (syntax).
In linguistics, semantics has its beginnings in France and Germany in the 1820s when the meanings of words as significant features in the growth of language was recognized. Among the foremost linguistic semanticists of the 20th cent. are Gustaf Stern, Jost Trier, B. L. Whorf, Uriel Weinreich, Stephen Ullmann, Thomas Sebeok, Noam Chomsky, Jerrold Katz, and Charles Osgood. In the linguistics of recent years an offshoot of transformational grammar theory has reemphasized the role of meaning in linguistic analysis.
This new theory, developed largely by George Lakoff and James McCawley, is termed generative semantics. In anthropology a new theoretical orientation related to linguistic semantics has been developed. Its leading proponents include W. H. Goodenough, F. G. Lounsbury, and Claude Levi-Strauss. In philosophy, semantics has generally followed the lead of symbolic logic, and many philosophers do not make a distinction between logic and semantics. In this context, semantics is concerned with such issues as meaning and truth, meaning and thought, and the relation between signs and what they mean.
The leading practitioners have been Gottlob Frege, Lady Welby, Bertrand Russell, Otto Neurath, RudolfCarnap, Alonzo Church, Alfred Tarski, C. I. Lewis, Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, W. V. Quine, P. F. Strawson, Steven Schiffer, John Searle, H. P. Grice, Saul Kripke, Donald Davidson, and Gilbert Harman. Since the publication of the influential The Meaning of Meaning (1925) by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, semantics has also become important to literary criticism and stylistics, in which the way that metaphors evoke feelings is investigated and differences between ordinary and literary language are studied.
A related discipline, general semantics (so called to distinguish it from semantics in linguistics or philosophy), studies the ways in which meanings of words influence human behavior. General semantics was developed by Alfred Korzybski. The key term in Korzybski’s system is evaluation, the mental act that is performed by the hearer when a word is spoken. Among the most prominent followers of Korzybski are Stuart Chase, S. I. Hayakawa, and H. L. Weinberg. Bibliography A useful introduction to general semantics is H. L. Weinberg, Levels of Knowing and Existence (1959) and F. R. Palmer, Semantics (1981). For semantics in linguistics, see S.
Ullman, Semantics (1962) and The Principles of Semantics (1957, repr. 1967); N. Chomsky, Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar (1972); G. Leach, Semantics (1974); and J. Lyons, Language, Meaning, and Context (1981). For semantics in philosophy, see R. Carnap, Meaning and Necessity (2d ed. 1956); K. and A. Lehrer, The Theory of Meaning (1970); J. F. Rosenberg and C. Travis, ed. , Readings in the Philosophy of Language (1971); and D. Davidson and G. Harman, ed. , Semantics of Natural Language (2d ed. 1973). For semantics in literary criticism, see K. Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (1950) and A Grammar of Motives (1955) and the works of W.
Empson and P. Wheelwright. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia® Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www. cc. columbia. edu/cu/cup/ Ads by Google Have You Written a Book? Talk to a Publishing Advisor. Get published now. Get our Free Guide! AuthorHouse. co. uk [pic] semantics Study of meaning, one of the major areas of linguistic study (see linguistics). Linguists have approached it in a variety of ways. Members of the school of interpretive semantics study the structures of language independent of their conditions of use.
In contrast, the advocates of generative semantics insist that the meaning of sentences is a function of their use. Still another group maintains that semantics will not advance until theorists take into account the psychological questions of how people form concepts and how these relate to word meanings. For more information on semantics, visit Britannica. com. Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Copyright © 1994-2008 Encyclop? dia Britannica, Inc. Ads by Google ????????? ?????????? ?? ??????? ??????? ?? 3 ???? ??? ?? ???? ?? 50 ???? www. sharqacademy. com [pic] semantics The study of the meaning of words.
Contrast with syntax, which governs the structure of a language. See Semantic Web and Systemantics. Computer Desktop Encyclopedia copyright ©1981-2013 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Right reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher. Ads by Google High School Online Self-paced online courses help you Finish High School your way. www. aiuhs. org [pic] semantics 1. the study of the relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent 2. Logic a. the study of interpretations of a formal theory b. he study of the relationship between the structure of a theory and its subject matter c. (of a formal theory) the principles that determine the truth or falsehood of sentences within the theory, and the references of its terms Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005 Ads by Google ?????? ?? ?? ??? ??? ???? ???? ???? ??????? ????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ?????? egypt. dubizzle. com [pic] semantics [si? man·tiks] (communications) The branch of semiotics that deals with the relations between symbols and what they stand for, and defines the meaning that is prescribed for a statement by its originator.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Ads by Google ???? ?????????? ???????? ???? ????? ?????? ?????? ?????????? ???? ?? ?????? ??????? ??????????? www. englishforarabs. com [pic] |(theory) |semantics – The meaning of a string in some language, as opposed to syntax which describes how symbols may be | | | |combined independent of their meaning. | | | | | | | |The semantics of a programming language is a function from programs to answers.
A program is a closed term and, in | | | |practical languages, an answer is a member of the syntactic category of values. The two main kinds are denotational | | | |semantics andoperational semantics. | | This article is provided by FOLDOC – Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc. org) Ads by Google ???? ??????? ?? ??? ???? ??? ??????? ?? ???????? ?????????? ???? ?????? ?????? StudiesInAustraliaArabic. com [pic] Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.
Semantics the branch of linguistics that studies the meanings of linguistic units. Semantics can also be defined as an aspect of the study of signs in semiotics or as the meaning of linguistic units. [This article will discuss linguistic semantics, that is, semantics as first defined above. ] The term “semasiology” is historically a synonym for “semantics. ” In linguistic semantics, the elementary object of study consists of the three elements of the linguistic sign—especially the word—considered in their unity: the signifier, the denotatum, and the signified.
The signifier is the external element, the sequence of sounds or graphic signs. It is linked with the denotatum (a signified object or phenomenon of reality) and with the referent (an object or phenomenon signified by a given linguistic unit within an utterance or by an utterance as a whole). It is also linked with the signified, which is the reflection of that object or phenomenon in human consciousness. The signified is the result of the social understanding of reality and is usually identical to a concept or mental representation.
The three-way link of signifier-denotatum-signified constitutes the category of meaning and the basic unit of semantics. These tripartite units enter into regular and systemic relationships with one another. One unit may be compared to another on the basis of one of the three elements: the signified (in the case of synonyms), the signifier (in the case of homonyms), and the denotatum and referent (in the case of a special form of synonymy known as transformation or periphrasis). Synonymy, homonymy, periphrasis (transformation), and polysemy form the basis of the systemic quality in semantics.
The systemic quality is manifested most clearly in relatively small groups of words that are similar in one respect (in which they are synonyms) and opposed in another (in which they are antonyms). Such groupings, which differ depending on the language, constitute structural oppositions. For example, the Russian words ekhat (“to go [by vehicle]”), idti (“to go [on foot]”) plyt’ (“to swim,” “to go [by boat]”), and letet’ (“to fly”) have a common feature of “human locomotion” but are opposed as regards the feature of “means of locomotion. Such features within groups are studied and described as components of meaning or semantic factors. Elementary word groups may be combined in a relationship of content, forming thematic groups and semantic and lexical “fields. ” For example, all the means of expressing the concept of joy in a given language constitute the lexical-semantic field “joy. ” Linguistic semantics seeks to provide a complete description of the semantic system of a given language in the form of a thesaurus.
The thesaurus vividly demonstrates that semantics preserves what results from the reflection and comprehension of the objective world in human social practice. For example, the concepts “to be,” “to have,” “time,” “form,” and “content,” which were developed in European culture, may be represented differently or not at all in other cultures. In the language of the Hopi Indians, there are no nouns of the type “spring,” “winter,” “present,” and “future”; corresponding—but not identical—concepts are expressed adverbially (for example, “when warm”). Rain” is named as an object (substance) in Indo-European languages but as a process (feature) in the American Indian language of the Hupa (literally, “it comes down”). On the other hand, the opposition of substance (“object”) and feature (“process,” “action,” and so forth) is objective and universal: every language maintains the opposition through its own means and within the framework of its own system as an opposition between noun and verb. Semantics seeks to discover and study these universal semantic categories.
The polysemant is a most important object of semantic study and one of the key points in the interrelationships between system and speech (or text). It represents a complex of lexical-semantic variants, related to one another in the system as specific lexical meanings and behaving in speech as the concrete realization of these meanings. In speech or text, words also enter into elementary relationships of another type. The relationships are determined by the ability of words to combine with one another.
The combinations permitted by the system of a language determine the distribution of each word relative to others. For example, the distribution will vary for the Russian words krichat’ (vo vsiu moch’) (“to shout [with all one’s might]”), bezhat’(vo vse lopatki) (“to run [as fast as one can]”), pozdravliat’ (ot vsego serdtsa) (“to congratulate [with all one’s heart]”), and naedat’sia (do otvala) (“to eat [until one can eat no more]”). The distributive analysis of meanings is a special task of semantics.
The word combinations vo vsiu moch’, vo vse lopatki, ot vsego serdtsa, and do otvala have the common meaning of “to the highest degree,” but the specific form used to express this meaning depends on the combining word; thus, vo vsiu moch’ is combined with krichat’, vo vse lopatkiwith bezhat’, and so forth. The form of expression is therefore a function of the combination. Semantics seeks to discover and study such functions—known as lexical parameters—which allow extensive groups of words, word combinations, and sentences to be represented as systemic periphrases (transformations) of one another.
The creation of a thesaurus of functions is a long-range task of semantics. When transformations are studied, the distinction between lexical semantics (the meaning of root morphemes, words, and word combinations) and grammatical semantics (the study of the meanings of grammatical forms) recedes into the background, and traditional semasiology becomes simply a part of semantics. On the other hand, the distinction between the denotatum and the referent becomes essential.
Thought correspondence to the denotatum is called meaning, and thought correspondence to the referent and the reflection in consciousness of a whole situation is often called sense. Thus, the content of the term “semantics” expands and semantics acquires a new task: to study the system of such “senses. ” The study is known as syntactic semantics. Semantics also studies characteristic changes in meaning that occur in the history of a language and seeks to discover semantic laws. The conceptual fund of a language is divided into that which is the common property of all members of a given society and that which is the property of science.
The former includes the everyday, “naive,” or linguistic, concepts (the “immediate” meanings of words), whereas the latter includes scientific concepts and terms (the “more distant” meanings of words). An example of the difference is seen in the colloquial use of the Russian word kapital to mean a large sum of money and the specialized use of the term in political economy to mean capital. One general semantic law is that everyday words having features in common with scientific concepts constantly strive to merge their parameters of content with those of the scientific terms.
Key cultural terms, which differ for each era, occupy a special place between everyday and scientific concepts. Such key terms include “civilization,” “revolution,” “democracy,” “science,” “technology,” “individual,” “love,” and “machine. ” The meanings of a language’s everyday words and the dominant ideas of society are combined in the semantic content of these terms. In studying the development of key cultural terms and concepts of different types, the tasks of semantics coincide with those of cultural history and semiotics.
Semantics emerged in the late 19th century, simultaneously in Russia (M. M. Pokrovskii) and France (M. Breal), as a historical discipline studying semantic laws. According to the aspect of the semantics of language that is taken as the basis for the discipline, various directions are distinguished. These directions include analysis of lexical-semantic variation (V. V. Vinogradov, A. I. Smirnitskii, N. N. Amosova, A. A. Ufimtseva, and D. N. Shmelev of the USSR); oppositive (componential) analysis, or semantic factoring (L. Hjelmslev of Denmark, A. Kroeber and W. Goodenough of the USA, and O.
N. Seliverstova of the USSR); and the method of fields and thesauri (R. Hailing and W. Wartburg of the Federal Republic of Germany and Iu. N. Karaulov of the USSR). Among other directions are distributive analysis (R. Langacker of the USA and V. A. Zvegintsev and Iu. D. Apresian of the USSR); logical-transformational analysis based on the category of lexical parameter, or function (I. A. Mel’chuk and Iu. D. Apresian of the USSR and A. Wierzbicka of Poland); and analysis of key cultural terms (G. Matore and E. Benveniste of France and Iu. S. Sorokin and R. A. Budagov of the USSR).