Semantics, Sense and Lexical Relations - Introduction to Linguistics - Lecture Slides, Slides for Linguistics. English and Foreign Languages University


Description: Semantics, Sense, Lexical Relations, Lexical Relations and the Dictionary, Synonyms and Register, Synonyms in English, Layers of Vocabulary in English, Hyponymy, Puns and Polysemy represents lecture layout.
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LING1001: Semantics 2
Word meaning:
Sense and
lexical relations
Sense revisited
Sense (see Semantics 1): the concept
associated with a word, which determines
how it is used
One view of sense: the sense of a word is
made up of the relationships between this
word and other words of the same language
E.g. hot is the antonym (opposite) of cold
A structuralist view
of sense
Structuralism: a view of language as a self-
contained system in which all parts relate
to other parts of the system (Saussure)
"The sense of an expression may be
defined as the set, or network, of sense-
relations that hold between it and other
expressions of the same language." (Lyons,
1995, p.80)
Sense and lexical relations
Lexical relations: the set of meaning relationships
between words
e.g. warm is an antonym of cool, and a synonym of
hot which is an antonym of cold
-> The lexicon forms a network linked by meaning
Lexical relations and the dictionary
A dictionary aims to define the sense(s)of a
In doing so it implicitly uses lexical relations:
fate: destiny or fortune apparently determined
by fate. (Longman Dictionary of the English
fate defined through its synonym destiny
Circularity may arise: fate… fate
Synonyms and register
Can two words have the same meaning?
- not if sense consists of contrasting with
other words, as in the structuralist
Synonyms in English often result from
lexical borrowing
The borrowed word typically belongs to a
higher (more formal) register
Synonyms in English
Germanic origin,
colloquial register
talk about
Latinate origin,
formal register
Layers of vocabulary in English
Germanic vocabulary:
(a) words inherited from proto-Germanic, the
common ancestor of English, German, Swedish
etc (more on this in LING1003)
(b) words borrowed from other Germanic
languages, especially Old Norse (skirt) and
Middle Dutch (dam)
Latinate vocabulary: borrowed words, originally
from Latin, often via French or Italian
If true synonyms are rare or non-existent, perhaps
related words may be more accurately described as
hyponyms of each other (Lyons 1977, 2005)
A is a hyponym of B if the sense of A is a subset of
the sense of B
E.g. weed is a hyponym of plant
scarlet is a hyponym of red
profound is a hyponym of deep
Greek poly (many) + semy (meaning) =
‘having many meanings’
Recall that mean and meaning are
themselves polysemous words:
mean (v): 1. refer to; 2. intend; 3. indicate
Puns and polysemy
Q: Which story in the Bible involves tennis?
A: The one in which Moses
served in Pharaoh’s court
serve: 1. Carry out tasks for another person
2. Begin play by introducing the ball
court: 1. Place where a king receives guests
2. One side of the net in tennis
Polysemy versus homonymy
Polysemy: multiple (related) meanings of the same words
gwai2: ‘ghost’ or ‘foreigner’
Homonymy: two words sharing the same form –
phonological (homophones) or orthographic (homographs)
Q:What do Paddington and Winnie the Pooh pack for their
A: The bear essentials
[the bare essentials]
Relatedness by association
The bassoon is an idiot
(= the person playing the bassoon)
Part for whole: use of the term for part of
something to signify the whole thing
Nice wheels!
(= you have a nice car)
Relationship between part and whole
arm leg
finger toe
fingernail toenail
Lexical relations are one way in which the
sense(s) of a word can be described
The dictionary uses lexical relations to
define the sense(s) of words
Problem of circularity arises if word
meanings consist only of lexical relations
Next lecture: meanings as concepts
Cruse, David. (1986) Lexical Semantics.
Cambridge University Press.
Hofmann, Th.R. (1993) Realms of meaning:
An Introduction to Semantics. Longman.
Leech, Geoffrey (1974) Semantics. Penguin
Lyons, John (1995) An Introduction to
Linguistic Semantics. Cambridge University
Saeed, John (1997). Semantics. Blackwell.
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