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- An Introduction to Semantics
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- Semantics and Pragmatics
Another article in the same paper, this one from , shows semantics again being employed in a somewhat dismissive fashion, as the governor of the state of New York, W. Averell Harriman, used the word as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination for the presidency:. Asked on his arrival about this apparent modification of his views, Gov.
SEMANTiCS Conference 12222
By the early s arguing semantics has taken on a somewhat more refined meaning, referring more to a form of linguistic nit-picking than it did to a concerted attempt to decipher the true meaning of a word. Andrew Berding, in his book Foreign Affairs and You!
By the early s we see the full phrase, just arguing semantics , being used to indicate that one is quibbling about something irrelevant or unknowable. It can be found in a transcript from a senate hearing from , with testimony before the Committee on Armed Services:.
Fee: So you have essentially proven something like two-thirds of your total problem, leaving one-third with some state of it unknown. Is this a fair statement? Does this shift in usage indicate that semantics is now approaching a state of being a contronym a word having two meanings that contradict one another? That's something to keep in mind if you find yourself in an argument with a linguist or a semiotician. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!
Some imitative words are more surprising than others.
An Introduction to Semantics
How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts. The awkward case of 'his or her'. Which of these things doesn't belong? Test your visual vocabulary with our question challenge! Trump: 'Dastardly' Things. On Contractions of Multiple Words. But the steps in understanding something said to us in a language in which we are fluent are so rapid, so transparent, that we have little conscious feel for the principles and knowledge which underlie this communicative ability.
Questions of 'semantics' are an important part of the study of linguistic structure. They encompass several different investigations: how each language provides words and idioms for fundamental concepts and ideas lexical semantics , how the parts of a sentence are integrated into the basis for understanding its meaning compositional semantics , and how our assessment of what someone means on a particular occasion depends not only on what is actually said but also on aspects of the context of its saying and an assessment of the information and beliefs we share with the speaker.
Research in these areas reveals principles and systems which have many applications. The study of lexical word semantics and the conceptual distinctions implicit in the vocabulary of a language improves dictionaries which enable speakers of a language to extend their knowledge of its stock of words.
It also improves materials which help those acquiring a second language through instruction.
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Studying the rules governing the composition of word meanings into sentence meanings and larger discourses allows us to build computer systems which can interact with their users in more naturalistic language. Investigating how our understanding of what is said is influenced by our individual and cultural assumptions and experience, which are much less visible than what is explicitly said, can help make us more aware and effective communicators.
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The result of all of these sometimes very abstract investigations is a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complexity and expressive elegance of particular languages and the uniquely human system of linguistic communication. Consider two people, Pat and Chris, who are getting to know each other on a first date.
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If Chris says to Pat at the end of the evening, "I like you a lot. But imagine that Pat and Chris have been dating for some weeks, and Pat asks, "Do you love me? The difference does not come from the content of what is said but from the operation of a general pragmatic principle: When evaluating something on a scale of values, putting it at a certain point on the scale implies that all the higher values on the scale are inappropriate. It is our background assessment that positive feeling is ranked on a scale with 'love' higher than "like" which makes Chris' reply in the second context convey "No, don't love you.
A close examination of most words reveals that they have many different senses and the rules which combine them into sentence meanings will frequently yield several possibilities for interpretation. Usually we resolve potential ambiguity unconsciously—unless someone carefully constructs a joke which turns on an ambiguity.
Semantics and Pragmatics
Consider for example this joke, taken from Douglas Adams' The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. Ford and Arthur, are stowaways on a space ship. Ford: You should prepare yourself for the jump into hyperspace; it's unpleasantly like being drunk.
Arthur: What's so unpleasant about being drunk? Ford: Just ask a glass of water.