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Tran Thi Linh Chi
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Ngo Thi Diem
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Le Thi My Duyen
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Semantics is a systematic study of meaning. In other word, it is the study of how language organizes and expresses meaning. When learning semantics, we will give an account of word meaning, sentence meaning and utterance meaning. It is a general belief that the meaning does not exist in the word itself, but it rather spreads over the neighboring words, because the neighboring words identify the semantic field and help pin down the meaning. A dictionary may have over 50 different senses of the word "play", each of these having a different meaning based on the context of the word's usage. A word which is related to other words is related to them in sense, hence sense relations. The subjects that have long held the interest and attention of semanticists are polysemy, homonymy, synonymy, antonymy. Each of these items announces its distinctive features. These will be discussed in this chapter. The discussion will cover the understanding of the workings of the words as well as sense relations.
Words as meaningful units
It is generally agreed that the words, phrases and sentences of language have meanings and sentences are made up of words (phrases) and that the meaning of a sentence is the function of the meanings of the words (and phrases) of which it is made up. “Words are regarded as the smallest indivisible meaningful units of a language which can operate independently.”. It is difficult to define the term “word”. One reason is that the term ‘word’ is ambiguous, both in everyday usage and also as it is employed technically by linguists. Words may be considered purely as forms, whether spoken or written, or, alternatively, as composite expressions, which combine forms and meanings. Forms and expressions
Words are also considered expressions. Words and word forms are distinguished from each other in terms of the distinction between lexical and grammatical meanings. Forms of one and the same word have the same lexical meaning whereas different words have different lexical meanings. Homonymy and Polysemy
1. Homonymy a. Definition: The word Homonymy (from the Greek - homos: same, onoma: name) is the relation
between words with identical writing and/or pronunciation but different meanings that is, the condition of being homonyms. Examples: • peer ('person belonging to the same group in age and status') and peer ('look searchingly') • peep ('making a feeble shrill sound') and peep ('look cautiously') • for (preposition) and four (number) b. Types of homonyms:
There are 2 types of homonyms: Absolute homonyms and partial homonyms. • • •
Absolute homonyms should satisfy 3 conditions: They will be unrelated in meanings. All their forms will be identical. The identical forms will be grammatically equivalent. Examples: 8
• Spring (n): a stream – Spring (n): the season after winter and before summer • Pole (n): either of the two locations (North Pole or South Pole) – Pole (n): a tent pole. Partial homonyms (Depending on the sameness of forms, including pronunciation
and spelling) may be classified into 3 small types: Full homonyms: Words that have the same spelling, same pronunciation, but different word forms and different meanings. Examples: •
Address (n): địa chỉ - write the name and address of the intended recipient on (an envelope, letter, or package) Address (v): phát biểu - speak to (a person or an assembly), typically in a formal
• • • •
way. Play (n): vở kịch - a dramatic work for the stage or to be broadcast. Play (v): chơi - take part in (a sport). Fly (n): con ruồi – fly (v): bay Lie (n): bịa chuyện, lời nói dối – lie (v): nằm Fair (n): hội chợ - fair (a): công bằng Homophones: words that have the same pronunciation but different spelling. Examples:
• • • • • • • • • • c. -
Not (adv): không – knot (n): nút dây I: tôi – eye (n): con mắt Heal (v): chữa lành – heel (n): gót chân Affect (v): ảnh hưởng đến – effect (n): kết quả, tác dụng Die (v): chết – dye (v,n): nhuộm, thuốc nhuộm Homographs: Words that have the same spelling but different pronunciation Examples: Contract (n): hợp đồng – contract (v): lây nhiễm Subject (n): chủ đề - subject (v): ép buộc, chịu đựng Refuse (n): vật phế thải – refuse (v): từ chối Rebel (n): người nổi loạn – rebel (v): nổi loạn Content (n): nội dung – content (a): hài long Sources of homonyms: Phonetic changes: which words undergo in the course of their historical development. As a result of such changes, two or more words which were formerly pronounced differently may develop identical sound forms and thus become homonyms. A more complicated change of form brought together pair of homonyms: to knead (OE
cnēdan) and to need (OE nēodian); Conversion: which serves the creating of grammatical homonyms (e.g. iron →to iron, work→ to work, etc.); 9
Shortening: is a further type of word-building which increases the number of homonyms (e.g. The noun rep, n. denoting a kind of fabric has three homonyms made
by shortening: repertory → rep, n., representative → rep, n., reputation → rep, n.); Borrowing is another source of homonyms. A borrowed word may, in the final stage of its phonetic adaptation, duplicate in form either a native word or another borrowing (e.g. ritus Lat. → rite n. – write v. – right adj.; paisOFr→ piece, n. –pettiaOFr→ peace
n.); Words made by sound-imitation can also form pairs of homonyms with other words (e.g. mew, n. "the sound a cat makes" – mew, n. "a sea gul" – mew, n. "a pen in which
poultry is fattened" – mews "small terraced houses in Central London"). Disintegration or split of polysemy: different meanings of the same word move so far away from each other that they come to be regarded as two separate units. The Latin “buxus” results in box (a kind of small evergreen shrub), box (a receptacle made of wood), box (v) (to put in a box), box (a slap with the hand on the ear) and box (a
sport term). 2. Polysemy a. Definition - Polysemy is an aspect of semantic ambiguity that concerns the multiplicity of word -
meanings. In other words, one word has two or more multiple meanings and these meanings are
related to each other. Examples: • Flurry: sudden commotion, excitement, confusion, or nervous hurry: a flurry of activity before the party. Flurry: a sudden gust of wind or snow. • Gutter: a shallow trough fixed beneath the edge of a roof for carrying off rainwater. Gutter: the blank space between facing pages of a book or between adjacent columns of type or stamps in a sheet. Gutter (v): (of a candle or flame) flicker and burn unsteadily: the candles had almost guttered out. b. Ambiguity and the role of contexts Definition: Ambiguity is the presence of two or more possible meanings in a single passage. The word comes from a Latin term which means, "wandering about" and the adjective form of the word is ambiguous. Other terms used for ambiguity are amphibologia, amphibolia, and semantic ambiguity. In addition, ambiguity is sometimes regarded as a
fallacy (commonly known as equivocation) in which the same term is used in more than one way. In speech and writing, there are two basic types of ambiguity:
+ Lexical ambiguity is the presence of two or more possible meanings within a single word. + Grammatical ambiguity is the presence of two or more possible meanings within a single sentence or sequence of words. Example: They rent some detective novels written by Dan Brown.
Lexical ambiguity (1) to pay someone for the use of (2) to tear (something) into pieces
Grammatical ambiguity (1) present tense of “rent” (2) past tense of “rend”
The role of contexts
Context plays a very important role in determining the semantics of a word, a sentence or a whole text. Especially in which the context consists of two parts: + Lexical context, the words or phrases that are used with the homonyms or polysemantic words. Examples: The enraged actor sued the newspaper. He read the newspaper. • His cottage is near a small wood. The statue was made out of a block of wood. •
+ Grammatical context, the grammatical structure in which a homonym or polysemy is used. Examples: He drank a glass of milk He forgot to milk the cow. To eliminate ambiguity, the reader is required to remove lexical ambiguity and •
grammatical ambiguity. + based on grammatical equivalence: that means the reader must identify words and phrases used correctly in the sentence or the whole text. +
context-based: the writer can add information in sentences to make the
Example: I saw her duck. => “I saw her duck walking in my yard” or “I saw her duck to avoid the incoming ball.” 3. Homonymy & Polysemy - Homonym and polysemy are distinguished from each other in: definition, relatedness
in meaning, origin, dictionary and guessing the meaning.
Polysemy is the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
Homonymy refers to the existence of unrelated words that look or sound the same.
Relatedness in meaning
Different but related meanings.
Completely different meanings.
Polysemous words are listed under one entry in dictionaries Polysemous words can be understood if you know that the meaning of one word.
Homonyms are listed separately in dictionaries Meaning of homonyms cannot be guessed since the words have unrelated meanings. -Stalk (1): The main stem of a herbaceous plant Stalk (2): Pursue or approach stealthily -Sow (1): adult female pig Sow (2): to plant seeds in a ground
Guessing the meaning Examples
-Rum (1) (n): an alcoholic liquor distilled from sugar-cane residues or molasses. Example: Get drunk on rum. Rum (2) (a): odd; peculiar. Example: It's a rum business, certainly. -Prune (1) (n): a plum preserved by drying, having a black, wrinkled appearance. Prune (2) (v): trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.
Synonym and antonym 1. Synonym a. Definition -
Synonyms are actually words of the same parts of speech which have similar meaning but not identical meanings.
They may share a similar denotational or connotational meanings. They can differ from each another in terms of denotation or connotation. Ex: Father and dad differ in terms of connotation rather than denotation.
b. Classification Absolute synonyms: satisfy the following three conditions: -
All their meanings are identical
They are synonymous in all contexts
They are semantically equivalent (i.e. their meaning or meanings are identical) on all dimensions of meanings and descriptive and non-descriptive. It can be seen that such synonyms are extremely rare. Ex: begin-start
Semantic synonyms: they are those which differ in terms of their denotation.
Ex: glance (a quick and stolen look) and look (turn one’s eyes in a particular direction in order to see) Stylistic synonyms: they are those which differ in terms of their connotation.
Ex: Father-dad Semantic-stylistic synonyms: make up the majority of all synonyms in English-words
differing both in denotational and connotational meaning, (i.e. in shades of meaning connotation. Ex: to reduce- to axe- to cut back Phraseological
synonyms: words which are different in their collocations
(combinability: ability to be combined with different words). Ex: do- make (to do exercises but to make money) Territorial synonyms: they are those employed in different regions like Britain,
Canada, Australia or the US. Ex: football (Br.E)- soccer(Am.E)
Euphemisms: literally means “speak well”. In using euphemisms, a less unpleasant or
offensive effect is achieved. Ex: “redundant” and “be out of a job/ unemployed”: the word “redundant” is not as direct or to the point as “unemployed”, thus, it may sound more “politically correct”. c.
Sources of synonyms
Borrowing: many words were borrowed from Greek, Latin and French and they became synonyms to native words forming the synonymic groups, in which the native words are usually neutral French words are literary, Latin and Greek are bookish or scientific. Ex: to ask (native English words)- to question (words borrowed from French)- to interrogate (words borrowed from Latin).
The change of meaning: The word “hand” for example, acquired the meaning “worker” and became synonym to this word, then the meaning “side, direction” (hand-side), signature(hand-signature).
Word-building: + Use/creation of phrasal verbs: to rise- to get up + Conversion may also be a source of synonymy: laughter-laugh + Quite often synonyms (mostly stylistic) are due to shortening: bicycle-bike + Synonyms are created by means of derivation and composition: Police-policeman-policewoman
2. Antonymy a. Definition -
Words of the same part of speech that are opposite in meanings are called antonyms.
Many words, especially those denoting concrete objects have no antonyms.
Usually adjective denoting quality, verbs denoting actions or states and abstract nouns have antonyms. Ex: ugly- pretty
b. Characteristics -
Antonyms belong to the same semantic field, nearly identical in distribution. Ex: big- small (adjectives, about size)
Antonyms do not differ either in style emotional coloring. Ex: Treat somebody ill or well.
In many pairs of antonyms, one is marked and other unmarked. Ex: How tall is he? (Not “How short is he?”)
c. Classification Gradable antonyms: are easily gradable, based on the operation of gradation. They are
opposite ends of a continuous scale of values. Ex: hot (-warm- cool-)- cold Complementary antonyms: involve two items and presuppose that the assertion of one
is the negation of the other. Complementary synonyms come in pairs and between them exhaust all relevant possibilities. If one is applicable, then the other can’t be, and vice versa. Ex: alive-dead Conversive: Conversive denote the same situation but from different points of view,
with a reversal of the order of participants and their roles. Ex: sell-buy Directional antonyms: Directional antonyms present opposite directions of motion.
Exercise 1: Explain the semantic ambiguity of the following sentences by providing two sentences which paraphrase the two meanings. 1. He waited a few minutes Minutes (n): - a period of 60 seconds - a written record of what is said at a meeting => He waited for his girlfriend a few minutes => He waited his management to give a few minutes of the meeting 2. She cannot bear children Bear (v): - to tolerate something or someone - to give a birth => She cannot bear taking care of children because they are very noisy => She cannot bear children because she is such a weak woman 3. My nail was broken Nail (n): - a area that covers the upper side of fingers and toes - a thin pointed piece of metal => My finger nail was broken when I had it cut => My nail on the wall was broken 4. We are in the park Park (n): - a large area of land with grass and trees - a place to leave a car => We are in the national park to go for walk => We are in the car park of the building 5. He gave some points Points (n): - ideas or opinions - marks or units for counting => He gave some individual points of view to prove the truth => He gave some good points to his students for the final exam 6. He was in trouble about his chest Chest (n): - the upper front part of the body - a large strong heavy box used for storing things 17
=> He was in trouble about his chest pains => He was in trouble about his jewellery chest someone had stolen 7. Jack has a fan Fan (n): - someone who admires the idol - an electric device => Jack has a big fan who always admires and supports his career => Jack has a ceiling fan Exercise 2: Comment on the types of homonyms 1. Be – Bee => Homophones: same pronunciation but different spelling 2. Letter (n) – Letter (n) => Absolute homonyms: same spelling, same pronunciation, same word forms but different meanings • •
Letter: a written message from one person to another Letter: a written symbol that is used to represent a sound used in speech 3. Peace – Piece => Homophones: same pronunciation but different spelling 4. Plain – Plane => Homophones: same pronunciation but different spelling 5. Miss (v) – Miss (v) => Absolute homonyms: same spelling, same pronunciation, same word forms but different meanings
Miss: to arrive too late to get on a bus, train or aircraft Miss: to feel sad that a person or thing is not present 6. Ring (n) – Ring (v) => Full homonyms: same spelling, same pronunciation, but different word forms and different meanings
Ring (n): a piece of jewellery worn especially on your finger Ring (v): to make the sound of a bell 7. Watch (v) – Watch (n) => Full homonyms: same spelling, same pronunciation, but different word forms and different meanings 18
Watch (v): to look at something or someone Watch (n): a small clock worn around a wrist 8. Desert (n) – Desert (v) => Homographs: same spelling but different pronunciation
Desert (n): /ˈdez.ət/: an area covered with sand or rocks Desert(v): /dɪˈzɜːt/: to leave the armed forces without permission 9. Live (v) – Live (adj) => Homographs: same spelling but different pronunciation
Live (v): /lɪv/: to be alive or have life Live (adj): /laɪv/: having life 10. Minute (n) – Minute (n) => Absolute homonyms: same spelling, same pronunciation, same word forms but different meanings
Minute (n): a period of 60 seconds Minute (n): a written record of what is said at a meeting Exercise 3: There are several kinds of antonyms. Indicate which of the following are complementary pairs, which are gradable pairs, and which are conversives.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Sunny – rainy Advantage – disadvantage Teacher – student Bright – dark Man – woman Performer – audience Hungry – full Big – small Husband – wife Tall – short Answer: 1. Sunny – rainy: gradable 2. Advantage – disadvantage: complementary 3. Teacher – student: conversive 4. Bright – dark: gradable 5. Man – woman: complementary 6. Performer – audience: conversive 19
7. Hungry – full: gradable 8. Big – small: gradable 9. Husband – wife: conversive 10. Tall – short: gradable Exercise 4: Comment on the types of synonyms 1. Beautiful – pretty – lovely 2. Mother – mom – mama 3. Cinema – movie theatre 4. (To be) pregnant – (to be) in the family way 5. Child – infant – kid 6. Few – little 7. Car park – parking lot 8. Red – crimson – scarlet 9. Keep – hold 10. Die – kick the bucket Answer: 1. Beautiful – pretty – lovely: semantic Beautiful: is very attractive Pretty: is pleasant to look at Lovely: a person who is kind, friendly, and pleasant 2. Mother – mom – mama: stylistic Mother (neutral) – mom (informal) – mama (informal) 3. Cinema – movie theatre: territorial Cinema (British English) – movie theatre (American English) 4. (To be) pregnant – (to be) in the family way: euphemisms 5. Child – infant – kid: stylistic Child (neutral) – infant (elevated) – kid (colloquial) 6. Few – little: phraseological Few books - little money 7. Car park – parking lot: territorial 20
Car park (Br.E) – parking lot (Am.E) 8. Red – crimson – scarlet: semantic Red: the colour of fresh blood Crimson: deep red colour Scarlet: bright red colour 9. Keep – hold: phraseological Keep silence – Hold one’s gab 10. Die – kick the bucket: euphemisms
CONCLUSION In this chapter, we sketched out a brief introduction of word as well as its forms and expressions. We subscribe to the view that every word combines a lexical meaning and a grammatical meaning. We also look at some sense relations. Polysemy can cause lexical ambiguity and grammatical ambiguity. Homonyms are those lexical items which
orthographically (homographs), or both (full homonyms). Synonyms are those words of the same part of speech sharing a similarity of both connotation and denotation. Antonyms can consist of 4 types: gradable, conversive, complementary and directional antonyms.