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semantics

What is semantics?

Semantics is a sub discipline of linguistics which focuses on the study of meaning. Semantics tries to understand what meaning is as an element of language and how it is constructed by language as well as interpreted, obscured and negotiated by speakers and listeners of language.[1]
Semantics is closely linked with another sub discipline of linguistics, pragmatics, which is also, broadly speaking, the study of meaning. However, unlike pragmatics, semantics is a highly theoretical research perspective, and looks at meaning in language in isolation, in the language itself, whereas pragmatics is a more practical subject and is interested in meaning in language in use.
Semantics is the study of meaning, but what do we mean by 'meaning'?
Meaning has been given different definitions in the past.
Meaning = Connotation?
Is meaning simply the set of associations that a word evokes, is the meaning of a word defined by the images that its users connect to it?
So 'winter' might mean 'snow', 'sledging' and 'mulled wine'. But what about someone living in the amazon? Their 'winter' is still wet and hot, so its original meaning is lost. Because the associations of a word don't always apply, it was decided that this couldn't be the whole story.
Meaning = Denotation?
It has also been suggested that the meaning of a word is simply the entity in the World which that word refers to. This makes perfect sense for proper nouns like 'New York' and 'the Eiffel Tower', but there are lots of words like 'sing' and 'altruism' that don't have a solid thing in the world that they are connected to. So meaning cannot be entirely denotation either.
Meaning = Extension and Intention
So meaning, in semantics, is defined as being Extension: The thing in the world that the word/phrase refers to, plus Intention: The concepts/mental images that the word/phrase evokes.[2]
Semantics is interested in:
  • How meaning works in language:
The study of semantics looks at how meaning works in language, and because of this it often uses native speaker intuitions about the meaning of words and phrases to base research on. We all understand semantics already on a subconscious level, it's how we all understand each other when we speak.




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