Notes on Semantics

Meaning is:

  • compositional
  • idiomatic
  • metaphorical

Semantic shift occurs as:

  • broadening – a word acquires more meaning
  • narrowing – a word acquires less meaning
  • semantic upgrading (ammelioration) – acquires positive connotation
  • semantic downgrading (pejorative) – acquires negative connotation

Four Questions to Ask in Determining Meaning:

1. What is the context?

  • linguistic
  • situational
  • or both

    Do we need to identify the referents of the lexical words?

2. What kind of connotation do the words have?

  • extremely or slightly positive
  • extremely or slightly negative
  • neutral

3. Should the utterance be interpreted literally or metaphorically?

4. Can the meaning of the whole be worked out from its parts or are we dealing with an idiom?

Ambiguity of Meaning

–¬†if structural, can be resolved through parsing
– if lexical, can be resolved through context

Relational Antonymy
– reciprocity, entailment (e.g. wife-husband, employer-employee, buy-sell)

-specific -> general, hierarchy, relationship of classification

-part-whole, division


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