SEMANTICS is derived from French word sémantique, applied by MICHEL BRÉAL (1883) to the psychology of language, from Greek semantikos “significant,” from semainein “to show by sign, signify, point out, indicate by a sign,” from sema “sign, mark, token; omen, portent; constellation; grave”. Semantic as one of the branches of pure linguistics is simply defined as the study of meaning in language. Before going any further, first thing that you have to know is the word meaning itself, which becomes the focus of this study. FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE, one of the structuralism scholars introduces seven dichotomies in the effort to understand language, one of them is signifiant and signifie dichotomy.
Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics defines Semantics as:
“The study of meaning. There are many different approaches to the way in which meaning in language is studied.”
A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics by DAVID CRYSTAL defines as:
“A major branch of linguistics devoted to the study of meaning in language.”
The first term refers to the form of language which is involved in a collection of phonemes, or in other words significant is the acoustic form of language or the basic form of phonological system of a language. Meanwhile, the second term refers to the mental image of a language, mental image refers to the intended meaning of it. De Saussure tried to tell us that in a language there must be symbols and thing that it’s symbolized. The symbol can be so vary, it can be written, oral, and image, and the things represented by those symbols are generally called meaning. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics defines meaning as:
“(In linguistics) what a language expresses about the world we live in or any possible or imaginary world.”
There are at least seven types of meaning (many linguists state their different categories of meaning) in semantic according Geoffrey Leech (1974), those are:
i. Conceptual meaning (logical, cognitive, or denotative content)
It refers to the dictionary meaning which indicates the concepts. In reading we can find many different words have the same conceptual meanings. Take the word walk as an example, the conceptual meaning or the primary dictionary meaning is to move forward by placing one foot in front of the other. There are also a few other words that, according to the dictionary, mean to move forward on foot, etc.
ii. Connotative meaning
“(What is communicated by virtue of what language refers to).”
It refers to the associations that are connected to a certain word or the emotional suggestions related to that word. The connotative meanings of a word exist together with the denotative meanings. The connotations for the word snake could include evil or danger.
iii. Social meaning
“(What is communicated of the social circumstances of language use).”
It refers to the usage of language in and by society which has big proportions in determining the meaning that certain speaker has to use and wants to convey, those factors include social class of the speaker and hearer and the degree of formality. Only part of the social meaning of a conversation is carried by words. Take saying hello or talking about the weather. Often such talk has little dictionary meaning. It is a way of being friendly or polite.
iv. Affective meaning
“(What is communicated of the feeling and attitudes of the speaker/writer).”
It refers to the speaker’s feeling / attitude towards the content or the ongoing context. It is important to remember that each individual will have a different affective meaning for a word. As such, only the person using a word will be aware of the particular affective meaning that they hold with the word. For example, we can discuss the word winter further. The word winter denotatively refers to a time period during which either the northern or southern hemisphere is furthest away from the sun. Different use of stress or intonation also provides a striking contrast in the feelings and attitudes communicated through an utterance.
v. Reflected meaning
“(What is communicated through association with another sense of the same expression).”
It refers to terms which have more than one meaning surfaces at the same time, so there is a kind of ambiguity. It is as if one or more unintended meanings were inevitably thrown back rather like light or sound reflected on a surface. For instance, if I use the medical expression chronic bronchitis, it is difficult for the more colloquial emotive meaning of chronic, ‘bad,’ not to intrude as well. . . . Sometimes, such coincidental, ‘unwanted’ meanings cause us to change a lexical item for another.
vi. Collocative meaning
“(What is communicated through association with words which tend to occur in the environment of another word).”
It refers to the associations a word acquires on account of the meanings of words which tend to occur in its environment. In other words, it is that part of the word-meaning suggested by the words that go before or come after a word in question, for instance, heavy news (a piece of sad news); heavy schedule (a very tight schedule); fast color (the color that does not fade); fast friend (a reliable friend); fast woman (a lady of easy virtue), etc.
vii. Thematic meaning
“(What is communicated by the way in which the message is organized in terms of order and emphasis).”
It relates to or constitutes a topic of discourse, the meaning that the word conveys is that of something that is connected with the theme of something
Types of Lexical Relations (meanings of words):
Lexical semantics examines relationships among word meanings. It is the study of how the lexicon is organized and how the lexical meanings of lexical items are interrelated, and its principle goal is to build a model for the structure of the lexicon by categorizing the types of relationships between words.
There are different types of lexical relations-
Hyponymy is a relationship between two words in which the meaning of one of the words includes the meaning of the other word.
The lexical relation corresponding to the inclusion of one class in another is hyponymy. A hyponym is a subordinate, specific term whose referent is included in the referent of super ordinate term.e.g. Blue, green are kinds of color they are specific colors and color is the general term for them. Therefore color is called the super ordinate term and blue, red, green, yellow, etc. are called hyponyms.
A super ordinate can have many hyponyms. Hyponymy is the relationship between each lower term and the higher term (super ordinate).It is sense relation. Hyponymy is defined in terms of the inclusion of the sense of one item in the sense of another. e.g. The sense of animal is included in the sense of lion.
Hyponymy is not restricted to objects, abstract concepts, or nouns. It can be identified in many other areas of the lexicon. e.g. the verb cook has many hyponyms.In a lexical field, hyponymy may exist at more than one level. A word may have both a hyponym and a super ordinate term.We thus have Sparrow, hawk, crow , fowl as hyponyms of bird and bird in turn is a hyponym of living beings .So there is a hierarchy of terms related to each other through hyponymic relations. Two or more terms which share the same super ordinate terms are co-hyponyms.
Hyponymy involves the logical relationship of entailment. e.g. ‘There is a horse’ entails that ‘There is an animal’ Hyponymy often functions in discourse as a means of lexical cohesion by establishing referential equivalence to avoid repetition.
Homonymy is ambiguous words whose different senses are far apart from each other and not obviously related to each other in any way. Words like tale and tail are homonyms. There is no conceptual connection between its two meanings.
The word ‘homonym’ has been derived from Greek term Homoios which means identical and onoma means means name. Homonyms are the words that have same phonetoc form (homophones) or orthographic form (homographs) but different unrelated meanings.e.g. They word bear as a verb means to carry and as a noun it means a large animal.
An example of homonym, which is both homophone and homograph, is fluke. Fluke is a fish as well as a flatworm. Other examples-bank, an anchor,etc. Homophony is the case where two words are pronounced identically but they have different written forms. They sound alike but are written differently and often have different meanings. e.g. no, know and led, lead and would, wood.etc.
Homograph is a word which is spelled the same as another word and might be pronounced the same or differently but which has a different meanings. E.g. bear, to bear. When homonyms are spelled the same they are homographs but not all homonyms are homographs.
When a word has several very closely related senses or meanings .Polysemous word is a word having two or more meanings.
E.g. foot in: He hurt his foot
She stood at the foot of the stairs.
A well-known problem in semantics is how to decide whether we are dealing with a single polysemous word or with two or more homonyms.
F.R.Palmer concluded saying that finally multiplicity of meaning is a very general characteristic of language. Polysemy is used in semantics and lexical analysis to describe the word with multiple meanings. Crystal and Dick Hebdige (1979) also defined polysemy. Lexical ambiguity depends upon homonymy and polysemy.
Synonymy is used to mean sameness of meaning.
“Synonym is a word, which has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word. There are several ways in which they differ.”
1. Some set of synonyms belong to different dialects of language, e.g. Fall – used in united states, Autumn-used in some western countries.
2. There is a similar situation but are more problematic one with words that are used in different styles or registers.
3. Some words may be said to differ only in their emotive or evaluative meanings.
4. Words are collocationally restricted they occur only in conjunction with other words.
5. Synonyms are often said to differ only in their connotation.
For example, in English hide and conceal in:
He hid the money under the bed.
He concealed the money under the bed.
Often one word may be more appropriate than another in a particular
situation, e.g. conceal is more formal than hide.
Sometimes two words may be synonymous in certain sentences only.
For example, in the sentences:
I must buy some more stamps at the post office.
I must get some more stamps at the post office.
buy and get are synonyms, as it would usually be thought that get in the
second sentence means buy and not steal.It is very hard to list absolute synonyms: words, which are identical both in denotation and connotation.
The word antonymy derives from the Greek root anti (opposite) and denotes opposition in meaning.
Antonymy or oppositeness of meaning has long been recognized as one of the most important semantic relations .e.g. quick-slow, big-small, long-short, rich-poor, etc.
Antonyms are divided in to several types-1.gradable antonyms/pairs, 2.nongradable antonyms/complementaries, and 3.reversives 4.converse pairs
1. gradable antonyms/pairs-They can be used in comparative constructions like bigger than or smaller than, etc. Also the negative of one member of the gradable pair does not necessarily imply the opposite. e.g.not hot does not mean cold.
2. nongradable antonyms/complementaries- The relation of oppositeness is that which holds between the pairs as single:married, man:woman,etc.
The denial of one implies the assertion of the other and the assertion of one implies the denial of the other. It is the characteristic of complimentaries.
3. reversives-It is important to avoid most antonym pairs as one word meaning the negative of another.e.g.tie-untie.
4. Converse pairs –Another kind of antonymy is forming converse pairs. e.g. Converseness is used to refer to the relationship between buy and sell.
A metonym substitutes for the object that is meant the name of an attribute or concept associated with the object. The use of ‘crown’ for ‘king’ is an e.g. of metonymy. This term has been derived from Greek word meta means after and onoma means substitution for name.
e.g. gray hair can be used for old age.
The distinction between metonymy and metaphor is made in linguistics. For instance, the phrase ‘to fish pearls’ metonymy is used and in the phrase ‘fishing for information’ metaphor is used. In cognitive linguistics, the word metonymy stands for the use of one basic characteristic to identify a more complex entity. Metonymy according to American Linguist Bloomfield is nearness in pace and time.
More precisely it focuses on specific aspects of objects having direct physical association to what is being referred to.