The study of meaning in terms of linguistics is called semantics which begins from the ending point of syntax and ends from where pragmatics begins. Semantics is a separate discipline in the study of language and has existed for decades. In 1987, Breal first used the term ‘semantics’ and it does not suggest that there had never been speculations about the nature of meaning. In natural languages, words, phrases, and sentences are used to convey messages. Semantics is the “study of meaning systems in language”. Language is systematic in nature if the meaning is a system.
Different languages in the world have certain universal properties, and the study of language peculiarities still revolves around contemporary linguistics. Gilbert Lazard (2004:394-395) states, that
“a language is a system of potentialities. Practically each grammatical or lexical unit has a whole range of potential uses… All linguistic units are supposed to assume a precise meaning (except in case of intentional or fortuitous ambiguity) and, last but not least, they often have a specific reference.”
According to Hurford and Heasley (1983), “semantics is the study of meaning in language.” Saeed (1997) adds, “semantics is the study of meaning communicated through language.”
Nature Of Meaning In Linguistics
Meaning as Object
Adeyemi (2000) states that, “the meaning of a word is the idea that the word brings forth in the speaker or hearer. It is assumed that in uttering a word, some idea exists in the mind of the speaker and his uttering the word will evoke the same idea in the mind of the hearer.”
Meaning as a Mental Image
Adeyemi opines that, “the Image Theory of Meaning reduces the meaning of a word to a question of the image the word calls forth in the hearer’s or speaker’s mind.”
Meaning as Semantic Primes
The semantic components form the meaning of a word and hence, words have sense elements.
Meaning as Use
The meaning of an expression is its pragmatic potential or the action it is used to perform.
According to Kreidler (1998), “Linguistic semantics is the study of how language organizes and expresses meaning.” Lobner (2002) opines that,
“semantics is the part of linguistics that is concerned with meaning.”