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P. 1
Lesson 1 Semantics

Lesson 1 Semantics

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Published by mjgvalcarce
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Published by: mjgvalcarce on Oct 20, 2008
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01/25/2015

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1. COMMUNICATION AND LANGUAGE
1.1 A Model of Communication
For 
C
RUISE
meaning makes little sense except in the context of communication. Communication can be conceived as the transfer of informationbetween biological generations via the genetic code, the interaction betweenthe driver and his car, and indeed any sort of stimulus-response situation.C
OMMUNICATION
is the transfer of information between human beings.
 A Simple Model of Communication (L
YONS 
, 1977)
The speaker has something to communicate (
MESSAGE
). Since messagesin their initial form cannot be transmitted directly (at least not reliably), they mustbe converted into a form that can be transmitted, a
SIGNAL
. In an ordinaryconversation, this involves a process of L
INGUISTIC
E
NCODING
, that is, translatingthe message into a linguistic form, and translating the linguistic form into a setof instructions to the speech organs which result into an acoustic signal. Theinitial form of this signal may be termed the
TRANSMITTED
 
SIGNAL
.Every mode of communication has a
CHANNEL
, through which the signaltravels: for speech, we have the auditory channel, for normal writing and signlanguage, visual channel, for Braille, the tactile channel, and so on. As thesignal travels from sender to receiver, it alters in various ways, throughdistortion, interference from irrelevant stimuli or loss through fading. These arereferred as
NOISE
. As a result, the signal picked up by the receiver (
RECEIVED
 
SIGNAL
) is never precisely the same as the transmitted one. Efficientcommunicating systems like language compensate for this loss of informationby building a degree of redundancy into signal, the information in a signal isEnglish Semantics and Lexicography
1
 
{message}sender (encoding)TransmittedsignalReceivedsignal(decoding){message}receiver channel…..noise
 
given more than once or the entire message can be reconstructed even if thereis significant loss.Once the signal has been received by the receiver, it has to be
DECODED
inorder to retrieve the original message. The message reconstructed by thereceiver would be identical to the message that the sender started with. In themajority of cases it is close enough. It is worth distinguishing three aspects of meaning:
a)
S
PEAKER
S
M
EANING
– speakers’ intended message.
 b)
H
EARER
S
M
EANING
– hearer’s inferred message.
c)
S
IGN
M
EANING
– the sum of the properties of the signal which make it(a) more apt than other signals conveying speaker’s intendedmessage, and (b) more apt for conveying some messages thanothers.In case of established signalling system like language, the meaning of the signs are not under control of the users; the signs are property of thespeech community and have fixed meanings.Any natural human language is a complex sign system designed toensure infinite expressive capacity – there’s nothing that is thinkable whichcannot in principle be encoded. Each elementary sign is stable symbolicassociation between meaning and form (phonetic and graphic); elementarysigns may combine together in a rule-governed way to form complex signswhich convey correspondingly complex meanings.
1.2. Problems of the Study of Meaning
Different branches in the studies of meaning such as lexical semantics or formal semantics are presented.
L
 YONS
defines
SEMANTICS
as the study omeaning and
LINGUISTIC
 
SEMANTICS
as the study of meaning in so far as it issystematically encoded in the vocabulary and grammar of natural languages.English Semantics and Lexicography
2
 
Speaker’s MeaningMeaning Hearer’s MeaningSign Meaning
 
The problem of where to draw the line between semantics andpragmatics is not easy.S
EMANTICS
is the study of meaning communicated through language.Speakers of a language have different types of linguistic knowledge, includinghow to pronounce words, how to construct sentences, and about the meaningof individual words and sentences. In this sense knowing a word unites differentkinds of knowledge. To reflect this, linguistic description has different
LEVELS
 
OF
 
ANALYSIS
.So P
HONOLOGY
is the study of what sounds a language has and how thesesounds combine to form words; S
YNTAX
is the study of how words can becombined into sentences; and S
EMANTICS
is the study of the meaning of wordsand sentences.Since linguistic description is an attempt to reflect speakers’ knowledgethe semanticist is committed to describing semantic knowledge. This knowledgeallows English speakers to know, for example that both the following sentencesdescribe the same situationThebasic task of semantics is to show how people communicate meanings with pieces of language. Linguistic meaning is a special subset of more general human abilityto use signs.According to
S
AUSSURE
, the study of linguistic meaning is a part of thisgeneral study of the use of sign systems. This study is called S
EMIOTICS
.Semioticans investigate the types of relationship that may hold between a signand the object it represents (or in S
AUSSURE
S
terminology between a
SIGNIFIER 
andits
SIGNIFIED
). One basic distinction is between I
CON
, I
NDEX
and
SYMBOL
.An I
CON
is where there is a similarity between a sign and what itrepresents (
 portrait – real life subject 
). An I
NDEX
is where the sign is closelyassociated with its signified (
smoke – fire
). A S
YMBOL
is where there is only aconventional link between the sign and its signified (
mourning – black clothes;
English Semantics and Lexicography
3
“ 
In the spine, the thoracic vertebrae are above the lumbar vertebrae” “In the spine, the lumbar vertebrae are below the thoracic vertebrae” 

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