Back to: Pedagogy of English- Unit 4
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.
It is the study of the relationship between words and meaning from a philosophical angle or a mathematical standpoint. It deals with the truth of utterances and how that truth is determined. It does not interpret real-world examples but instead, deals with creating models of potential linguistic utterances and examining them to determine their semantic relationships.
Lexical semantics is the most common type of semantics. It is the study of the meaning of individual words, particularly in the context of things like metaphor and other literary devices that can change the meanings of words and phrases. Lexical semantics takes different things into accounts such as context, or the text surrounding a word that gives it a particular meaning, and nuance, or shades of meaning in a word.
Conceptual semantics deals with the dictionary definition of a word before applying any context to the word. It studies the concepts with which the words are connected to. It studies how meaning gets assigned to those words. It studies how meanings change over time. These are all the things studied in conceptual semantics. A word that represents a concept is usually referred to as a sign in linguistics. Hence, the study of signs is related to conceptual semantics.
Semantics are used in literature commonly in areas where words can take on a literal or figurative meaning. The best way to determine a literal or figurative language is to look at the context of a word or phrase being used in a given instance. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, ”What It Looks Like to Us and the Word We Use” by Ada Limón, and ”Having ‘Having a Coke with You’ with You” by Mark Leidner are some interesting examples of semantics.
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.