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Suport Curs - Semantics (LEC anul II)

Suport Curs - Semantics (LEC anul II)

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Published by Alina Elena

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Published by: Alina Elena on May 29, 2012
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04/15/2013

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SUPORT CURS – LEC – SEMANTICSINTRODUCTION
Linguistics and its subfields (see for example Semantics) have a prominent place being the basis of each deepened study of words and sentences. The search of the origin of words have involvedsince ancient times (antiquity) many scholars who sought for not only the history but also thedestiny itself of terms (nomen est omen). We need to know the forms and meanings of words butchiefly we need to “travelling in time” learning the mystery of words, the iron phonetic rules, thecharm of analogies, the curiosity of apparent equalities of sounds or meaning among languages.And all this is given by Linguistics which is science, art and intuition.
PROPERTIES OF LANGUAGE
When talking about language we may say that it is a system of conventionalized symbols by whichwe communicate. The main properties are:‘arbitrariness’‘symbolism’‘creativity’.‘Arbitrariness’ can be explained by taking some words as examples:dog (English)cane (Italian)chat (French)The relationship between speech sounds and meaning is regarded as arbitrary and for this reasondifferent languages have different speech sounds to represent the same things:In the vocabulary of any language there is a small group of onomatopoeic words as the majoritywords of languages are to be seen as “arbitrary”. The relationship between the words and things issymbolic.Dog symbolizes a certain class of quadrupedChair symbolizes a certain type of furnitureCreativity is another important feature of all languages which allow new utterances to be createdthanks to new thoughts, experiences, situations.
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Examples
:The little girl ate the apple.The man ate the apple.Both ate the apple.All these examples have structural similarity. But, for instance, the following sentence “ The rullstud the thrull” does not make any sense since the words have no meaning even though thestructure conforms to the rules of English. On the contrary “dog the ate bone the” does notconform to the rules of English. In other examples such asShe wintered in Mexico.He holidayed in Greece. - the verbs are created from time expressions.Thus it is clear from what I have said up to now that languages are rule-governed structures.In each language we have the following characteristics :All languages have a grammar that can be more or less equal in complexity.Grammar with its rules and elements;Linguistic competence which correspond to knowledge of languageLinguistic performance which deals with how people use their knowledge of language, that is,grammar in comprehension and production.And again I have to remember you the branches of Linguistics :Phonetics: the articulation and perception of speech sound;Phonology: the pattering of speech sound;Morphology: word-formation;Syntax: sentence formation;Semantics: the interpretation of words and sentences;Pragmatics: how to use things with words.
More clarifications on the features of language
Talking about ‘human languages’ we can say that their main feature consists in the fact that unitiesof meaning (signs) are arbitrary and conventional. Nothing in the sound of the words in a languageallow us to discover the meaning of the words. The sound, for example, of the words “chaise”,“chair”, do not have any physical relation with the objects described by these words.All this implies that signs (unities of meaning which form a message) are conventional andarbitrary forms. The words of a language have been chosen by human beings to represent a given
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set of objects, ideas, or phenomena. Speaking the same language as someone else, then, meanssharing a certain number of conventions.On the other hand, the meaning of a sentence is not necessarily the addition of the meaning of eachword that forms it. Moreover the same word can have more than one meaning, that is, it can be polysemic. For example, the word ‘leaf’ in English means either ‘the leaf of a tree/plant or the page in a book. The context in which the sentence has been produced is necessary to any ambiguitywhich would arise in avoiding such cases. Language seen as a mental faculty allowing oralcommunication is innate while the code allowing its realization is learned.JUST A MYTH, A LANGUAGE MYTH
The land that time forgot
Somewhere, runs the story, in the Ozarks, or in the Appalachians, or in Derbyshire in England,there’s a village where the locals still speak perfect Elizabethan English, untouched by the vastchanges which have transformed English everywhere else. No, there isn’t: this is pure fantasy.There is no such thing as a living language which doesn’t change. This myth crops up because people occasionally notice that the local English in some corner of the world preserves one or twoold forms which have disappeared elsewhere. (For example, Appalachian English preserves the
a’doing 
form, as in “I was a’
 shootin
’ at some squirrels”; this was once universal in English but has been lost everywhere else.) But every variety of English preserves a few forms lost in other varieties, and every variety also exhibits a few innovations not found elsewhere. (For example,Appalachian English has undergone a change in its vowels such that Appalachian
think 
sounds tothe rest of us rather like
thank 
.)Similar myths have been maintained by speakers of other languages. Until the eighteenth century,even some linguists believed that the ancestral language of all humankind was still spoken, in its pristine state, in some favoured corner of the world; much ink was spilt over deciding which corner this might be. (For example, one such linguist argued for the Netherlands, and claimed that Dutchwas the uncorrupted ancestral tongue of all humans. He was Dutch, of course.) But all languagesthat are spoken change, and no language anywhere is closer than any other to the remote origins of human speech.There’s a moral here: don’t believe everything you read. Many journalists, authors of popular  books, and especially website writers are ignorant of the facts.
Further reading: Crystal 1997; Pullum 1991.
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