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INTRODUCTION TO LEXCIAL SEMANTICS: WORD MEANING 1

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Title: INTRODUCTION TO LEXCIAL SEMANTICS: WORD MEANING 1


1
INTRODUCTION TO LEXCIAL SEMANTICS WORD MEANING
(1)
  • LING 2003 Semantics
  • Lecture 3
  • 25 September 2006

By Dr. Olga Zayts zayts_at_hkucc.hku.hk
2
Last lecture recap
  • Discussed two approaches to meaning
  • referential (denotational approach) the meaning
    of words, phrases and sentences is described in
    terms of relationship between the language and
    the world
  • representational approach words, phrases and
    sentences denote something because they are
    associated with something in the speakers/
    hearers mind.
  • Third approach semantics should concentrate on
    sense relationships within a language between
    languages lexical semantics.

3
Todays lecture overview
  • Scope of lexical semantics.
  • What is a word?
  • Lexical meaning vs. grammatical meaning.
  • Are there any limitations/restrictions on the
    possible meanings of a word?
  • Defining same/different meanings of a word tests
  • Homonymy vs. polysemy.
  • Synonyms.
  • Types of opposites.

4
Scope of lexical semantics
  • Structure of lexical meaning
  • Semantic structures (meanings) of words and how
    the meanings of words are interrelated in the
    language
  • Semantic structure of dictionaries

Closely interrelated
5
What is a word?
  • A number of well-known problems in identifying
    words difficulties in differentiating between
    words/ morphemes/phrases.
  • Condition 1
  • A word - a minimal meaningful unit?
  • Example 1
  • Adjective firm something fairly hard, solid,
    cf. the word confirm, firm - a morpheme no
    lexical meaning.
  • Same phenomenon exists in other languages
  • Rus. ??? vat (a large container for holding
    liquids)
  • Also ??? - a morpheme as in the following
  • ?????????? people leaving in the city of Rostov
  • c??????????? people leaving in the city of
    Sverdlovsk
  • Morpheme ??? - no lexical meaning.

6
What is a word?
  • But
  • Example 2
  • ??????? ???? ? ??????????????
  • Lit. shop for film and photo accessories
  • ???? is a morpheme, but it has got its own
    lexical meaning.
  • Example 3
  • This phenomenon occurs in mono- and polysyllabic
    words.
  • Mono is a morpheme but it has got its own
    lexical meaning.
  • We cannot rely only on the criterion of a minimal
    meaningful unit when defining a word.

7
What is a word?
  • Condition 2
  • A word can be moved about in a sentence, or its
    position relative to other constituents in a
    sentence can be altered by inserting new
    constituents.
  • Example 4
  • Our topic is Lexical semantics.
  • Our topic today is Introduction to lexical
    semantics.
  • Introduction to lexical semantics is our topic
    today.
  • In Example 4, our, topic, is, lexical and
    semantics are words.

8
What is a word?
  • Condition 3
  • A word cannot be interrupted or have its parts
    reordered.
  • Example 5
  • INTRODUCTion
  • (or IntroDUCTion Latin prefix root)
  • Our todays topic is Introduct to lexical
    semantics ion.

9
What is a word?
  • German several types of prefixes separable and
    inseparable (trennbar und untrennbar), plus dual
    prefixes that can be both separable and
    inseparable.
  • Example 6
  • Wann fangen Sie an? (When do you begin?)
  • Heute ruft er seine Freundin an. (Today hes
    calling his girlfriend).
  • Are anfangen and anrufen not words?

10
What is a word?
  • Condition 4
  • Words have a characteristic internal structure
    they normally have no more than one root.
  • Example 7
  • BUTTER-FLY
  • BLACK-BOARD
  • Some words have no lexical root at all the, and,
    of
  • Alan Cruse (2000) prototypical word.

11
What is a word?
  • Example 8
  • Dances
  • Dancing
  • Danced
  • Same word or different words?
  • Dances, dancing and danced are different word
    forms of the same lexeme (Saeed lexeme/ semantic
    word), dance.
  • Lexical semantics is concerned with
    words-as-lexemes.

12
Lexical meaning vs. grammatical meaning
  • Dances, dancing and danced have the same lexical
    meaning and different grammatical meaning
  • Dances 1st person sg, Present Simple, dancing
    Participle 1 danced Participle 2.
  • The meaning of words is a combination of the
    lexical meaning and the grammatical meaning.
  • It is sometimes difficult to draw a borderline
    between lexical and grammatical meaning.
  • Lexical meaning is studied by lexical semantics
    and grammatical meaning is the concern of
    grammatical semantics.

13
Are any limitations/restrictions on the possible
meanings of a word?
  • Example 9
  • (Cruse, 2000 91)
  • Is it possible to find a language where the word
    with the following meaning exists?
  • To face west on a sunny morning while doing
    something quickly
  • Normally in a language words have a wider
    meaning, and words are polysemous (have more than
    one meaning).

14
Zipfs law
  • A Harvard linguist George Kingsley Zipf has
    formulated the law, which is known as Zipfs
    second law it concerns the number of meanings
    of a word
  • If m is the number of meanings a word has, then
    it is proportional to the square root of f, where
    f is the frequency of a word in a large corpus.

15
Meanings of a word
  • Russian linguist Vladimir Vinogradov, The
    Russian language. The grammatical study of a
    word two tasks are particularly difficult in
    linguistics writing a grammar book and compiling
    a lexicon.
  • Example 10
  • Same or different meanings?
  • To receive letters
  • guests
  • I forgot the car keys at home yesterday.
  • This sonata is in the key of E flat major.
  • His house is on the south bank of the river.
  • He is a bank manager.

16
Defining same/different meanings of a word
identity test
  • A number of tests that allow us to be more
    objective in defining same/different meanings of
    words
  • 1) The identity test deals with the anaphoric
    back-reference of a word.
  • Example 11
  • He is a bank manager. He is responsible for
    various financial operations in the bank
    supervision of day-to-day banking operations,
    processing financial data, visiting business
    customers, etc.

17
Identity test
  • Example 12
  • His house is on the south bank of the river. On
    the north side of the river there is a big
    amusement park.
  • Example 13
  • She had a light coat on (although it was quite
    cold outside).
  • Light not warm
  • Light not dark
  • Example 14
  • He was very funny (and everybody couldnt stop
    laughing).
  • Funny haha
  • Funny peculiar

18
Sense relationships of a word
  • 2) Sense relations of a word
  • The noun bank in the bank of a river is a meronym
    (part whole relationship) of river
    co-meronyms mouth, source, bed. The word bank in
    the bank manager does not have the same
    co-meronyms different words.

19
Autonomy test
  • 3) Autonomy test this test refers to the usage
    of the word in one of the senses when another
    sense is denied
  • Example 15
  • (Cruse, 2000 107)
  • Dog 1) canine species
  • 2) male of canine species
  • I prefer dogs to cats.
  • I prefer dogs to bitches.
  • (Read more about these and other tests in Cruse
    (2000)).

20
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • Lexicographers face the problem of
    differentiating between different senses of words
    when compiling dictionaries.
  • The problem of ambiguity of meaning is known as
    homonymy and polysemy.
  • Polysemy is the property of a word with more than
    one meaning
  • Homonymy is the relation between two or more
    expressions which have the same form but
    different meanings.

21
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • In traditional lexicography a polysemic word is
    entered as one entry in a dictionary with its
    several meanings, but unrelated homonyms are
    entered separately.
  • Example 16
  • (OALD, 1989 72)
  • Bachelor 1) unmarried man
  • 2) person who holds a first university
    degree
  • (Note the two words are related historically
    both come from a Medieval Latin word
    Baccalaureatus).

22
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • Cruse (2000110) There is a motivated
    relationship between polysemous senses.
  • Different types of polysemy
  • E.g., autohyponymy when a word has a general
    sense and a more specific restricted sense
  • Example 17
  • I do not like dogs or cats. (General sense)
  • This is not a dog, it is a bitch. (Specific sense)

23
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • E.g., autosuperordination (superordinate - a
    generic word) e.g., man referring to human race
    cow, as in the field of cows, referring to both
    cows and bulls, etc.
  • Please refer to task 1 (Task sheet)

24
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • Example 18
  • Mine is a long and sad tale! said the Mouse,
    turning to Alice, and sighing.
  • It is a long tail, certainly, said Alice,
    looking down with wonder at the Mouses tail
    but why do you call it sad? (L. Carroll, Alice
    in Wonderland).
  • Tail, tale - homonyms

25
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • Homonyms are not homogenous. Complete homonyms
    have the same pronunciation and the same form,
    e.g. bank.
  • A word in its actual use is unlikely to be
    ambiguous, the ambiguity disappears in the
    context.
  • Homonymy is not limited by the relation between
    nouns (Allan, 1986)
  • Example 19
  • His wants are few.
  • He wants a nice house.
  • Homonymy between the noun lexeme want plural
    morpheme, and the verb lexeme want third
    person singular subject agreement.

26
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • Sentences can also be homonymous
  • Example 20
  • Flying planes can be dangerous.
  • He hates boring students.

27
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • Homonymy

homophony (same pronunciation but different
meaning) E.g. knot not a eh ad add allowed
aloud be bee berry bury
homography (same spelling but different
meaning). E.g. bank converse Invalid present tear

28
Homonymy vs. polysemy
  • Homonyms may appear due to a change in
    pronunciation. For example, see and sea were
    pronounced differently before the Great Vowel
    Shift in English.
  • Other reasons for homonyms
  • Ellipsis (He hates boring students, where it is
    impossible to avoid ambiguity unless the sentence
    is extended).
  • Euphemisms (bull, for an animal and a euphemistic
    shortening for bullshit).
  • Homonyms can also arise across different
    dialects.
  • Homonyms are often grammatically distinct bull
    as an animal is a countable noun one bull
    three bulls, but as a euphemism it is
    uncountable a load of bullshit.

29
Synonyms
  • The relation of sameness in meaning.
  • Griffith (2006) explains synonyms in terms of
    two-way (forward and backward) entailment.
    Entailments are propositions that follow than a
    given proposition is true.
  • Example 21
  • Impudent cheeky
  • a. Andy is impudent.
  • b. Andy is cheeky.
  • c. (a b) (b a)
  • d. Andy is impudent but he isnt cheeky.
  • e. Andy is cheeky but he isnt impudent.
  • ??? Are huge and big synonyms?

30
Synonyms
  • The relation of synonymy is not homogeneous
  • absolute synonyms
  • non-absolute synonyms.

31
Absolute synonyms
  • Absolute synonyms require an absolute identity of
    meaning.
  • Cruse (Cruse, 2000 157) absolute synonyms are
    have to be identical in all contexts, i.e. if X
    and Y are absolute synonyms, then in any context
    where X is normal, Y is too in any context where
    X is slightly odd, Y is too in any context where
    X is totally anomalous, so is Y.

32
Absolute synonyms
  • Very difficult to find examples of absolute
    synonyms
  • Example 22
  • Ripe/mature
  • He is a mature person.
  • ?He is a ripe person.
  • Deep/profound
  • The lake is deep.
  • The lake is profound.

33
Absolute synonyms
  • Among the candidates for absolute synonyms are
    sweater and pullover. It is quite difficult to
    find differentiating contexts for these two
    synonyms.
  • NB! Think about the examples of absolute
    synonyms in the languages you know (tutorial 1
    task).
  • A context is needed to differentiate between
    absolute/ non-absolute synonyms. There is a
    danger of missing/disregarding a particular
    context when defining two items as absolute
    synonyms.
  • The differences in meaning between synonyms can
    be explained by stylistic, regional, emotional or
    other differences.

34
Opposites, antonyms
  • The term antonymy coined in the 19-th century
    to describe a phenomenon of oppositeness of
    meaning was considered to be the opposite of
    synonymy ? a lot of confusion in semantics
    caused by this approach since opposites are not
    homogenous
  • Example 23
  • Cold hot
  • Male-female
  • Husband wife

35
Opposites, antonyms
  • Terminological difficulty antonyms and
    opposites are often used as synonyms. Saeed
    opposition more general label, several types of
    relationship can be identified under
    opposition
  • 1) Gradable vs. ungradable antonyms (Saeed
    simple antonyms)
  • -
  • cold cool warm hot

36
Gradable/ungradable antonyms
  • Grading involves comparison. When we compare two
    or more objects with respect to their possession
    of a certain property (Adj in Eng), we can
    inquire whether the objects have the property to
    the same degree or not
  • Example 24
  • The weather is much colder this week than last
    week.
  • A lexeme like male is ungradable
  • Example 25
  • ?John is as much male as Peter.
  • ?John is more male than Peter.

37
Gradable/ungradable antonyms
  • Both gradable and ungradable antonyms have their
    opposites hot and female.
  • The terms contradictories and contraries are
    used in traditional logic to describe the
    difference between lexemes like cold-hot and
    male-female.
  • A proposition p is the contradictory of another
    proposition q, if p and q cannot be both true or
    both false
  • Example 26
  • This is a female cat.
  • This is a male cat.
  • My tea is hot.
  • My tea is cold.

38
Antonyms
  • (Griffith, 2006) antonyms
  • (a NOT b) (b NOT a)

39
Gradable/ungradable antonyms
  • Normal language behavior ungradable antonyms can
    sometimes be graded in speech. The reasons for it
    are pragmatic.
  • Example 27
  • John is more of a bachelor than Daniel (i.e. more
    determined never to get married, partying, had
    never had a stable girlfriend, etc.)
  • I am more alive now than ever (i.e. feeling more
    energetic, satisfied with my life, etc).

40
Conversives
  • Another type of opposites. Examples of
    conversives include
  • Husband wife
  • Doctor patient
  • Master mistress
  • Before - after
  • Above below, etc.

41
Conversives
  • Converseness may be regarded as two-place
    predicates the sentence John is the husband of
    Mary expresses the proposition the lexical
    converse of which is Mary is the wife of John.
  • Converse relations are especially common in areas
    of the vocabulary having to do with reciprocal
    social roles, temporal and spatial relations.

42
Reversives
  • Another term directional opposites. Examples of
    directional opposites include
  • Up - down
  • Come - go
  • Arrive depart
  • Common feature implication of motion in one of
    the two opposite directions with respect to a
    given place, P.

43
Reversives
  • Reversives are not homogenous
  • Come and go imply the movement from/to P
  • P ? go
  • ? come
  • But up/down both imply movement from P
  • ? up
  • P
  • ? down

44
Reversives
  • The opposition between many reversives will
    include deixis to define the movement up/down we
    need to define our position as speakers (deictic
    center).
  • Examples which do not include deixis
  • Example 28
  • The President arrived in Hong Kong.
  • The President departed from Hong Kong.
  • Another type of opposites taxonomies
    (red-orange-yellow-green, etc or
    Sunday-Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, etc) (also
    referred to as non-binary opposites). Read more
    in your course book (p. 68).
  • Conclusion opposites are not homogenous and they
    cannot be considered just the opposites of
    synonyms.

45
References
  • Allan, K. (1986). Linguistic meaning. (Vol.1).
    London New York Routledge and Kegan Paul. (pp.
    146 155).
  • Cruse, D. A. (2000). Meaning in language an
    introduction to semantics and pragmatics. Oxford
    Oxford University Press. (pp. 87 114).
  • Hurford, J., Heasley, B. (1983). Semantics a
    coursebook. Cambridge Cambridge University
    Press. (p. 125)
  • Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current
    English. (1989). Oxford Oxford University Press.

46
Homework
  • Exercise 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, pp. 80 - 81 (preparation
    for the mid-term quiz)
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