Semantics & Pragmatics

Report
Semantics &
Pragmatics
What does this mean?

From the lowly phone through the morph,
the phrase, and the clause:
◦ NPs & VPs label meaning at a very general
level;
◦ grammatical relations (Actor/Undergoer, S/O,
Theme) address it more subtly;
◦ morphs are full of it;
◦ & even some phones may correlate with
meaning (cf. phonoaesthesia)

SO WHAT IS IT?
Meaning

Semantics: meaning as encoded by
words and sentences

Pragmatics: speakers’ intended
meaning; ‘what they meant’ in particular
instances
◦ and what hearers’ infer
Approaches to Meaning

Contrast literal & figurative meaning

Contrast sentence & utterance meaning

Lexical Semantics: words’ sem relns
Goals

X-cultural diffs in Lex Sem

Speech acts, Reference, Presuppositions,
& Co-operative Principle

NB ‘Context’ in utterance mng
Goals

“that which is expressed by Ss,
utterances, & their components”

“the content conveyed in communication
by language”

Waaay too simplistic but whaddya do?
Meaning

The real or imaginary ‘things’ we refer to
= reference

Sense = the "cognitive significance" of the
referent.
Meaning: Reference & Sense

The sense of a linguistic sign derives part
of its essence from the greater system of
inter-sign relations in which in resides
◦ The sense of ‘hand’ is defined in part by its reln
to ‘arm’
◦ The idea of ‘plural noun’ gets its sense partly
due to the notion ‘singular noun’ (vs. Jap & Skt)

This contrast = value
Meaning: Sense = value…

‘defining properties that must be
understood in any application of a
linguistic item’ … intension

E.g. sheep = ‘animal, mammal, grazes,
ruminant, quadruped, even-toed
ungulates…’
Meaning: Sense=value+_____

Connotations
◦ Unstable meaning associations e.g. emotional
overtones which are not always present (vs.
sense, which is essential)
◦ Differ by attitudes (e.g. a mathematical way of
thinking about…)
◦ NB language acquisition & change; connotation
becomes part of sense
Sense & Connotations

Literal = the sense encoded by its
component lexical and grammatical signs
◦ ‘kick the bucket’

Figurative = an extension of literal mng

Rhetoric codifies many types of meaning
extension; 3 of which are:
◦ Metaphor
◦ Metonymy
◦ Synedoche
Literal vs. Figurative Meaning

Metaphor
◦ Sense is extended to another concept based on
resemblance
◦ ‘Belgian drivers are cowboys’
◦ …they tend to invoke notion of a cowboy
◦ (the hearer then decides the basis for
comparison)
Figurative Mng: Metaphor

Metonymy
◦ Sense extended to another concept due to a
typical or habitual association
◦ ‘go to the university’
◦ ‘likes the bottle’
◦ ‘Washington is in talks with the Kremlin)
Figurative Mng: Metonymy

Synedoche
◦ Sense is extended via a part-whole relation
◦ ‘wheels’
◦ ‘the denver omelet’
◦ ‘the radiator job’
Figurative Mng: Synedoche

Contrasting the two is literally not so easy

Cognitive Linguistics: metaphor has a
central role in language & thought, & is
pervasive in ordinary language
Lit-fig: distinction

Contrasting the two is literally not so easy

Cognitive Linguistics: metaphor has a
central role in language & thought, & is
pervasive in ordinary language

Metaphor is seen as a cognitive strategy
allowing us to understand one experiential
domain in terms of another
Lit-fig: distinction

Metaphor is seen as a cognitive strategy
allowing us to understand one experiential
domain in terms of another
Cognitive Linguistics

Metaphor is seen as a cognitive strategy
allowing us to understand one experiential
domain in terms of another

NB many domains are understood in
terms of space, and are expressed
linguistically via spatial relations:
◦ ‘cat at me’

Hence Lit-Fig distinction is iffy
Cognitive Linguistics

Sentence Mng = combine signs (morphs,
phrases, gr relns) and their mngs
◦ The car - broke down - yesterday
◦ Actor-------event----temporal location
Sentence vs Utterance Mng

Sentence Mng = combine signs (morphs,
phrases, gr relns) and their mngs
◦ The car - broke down - yesterday
◦ Actor-------event----temporal location

But context alters that ‘same conceptual
event’
◦ Thus its utterance meaning varies
Sentence vs Utterance Mng

Sentence  Semantics
◦ Meaning in isolation; meaning as it is within
the ‘system of language’
Sentence vs Utterance Mng

Sentence  Semantics
◦ Meaning in isolation; meaning as it is within
the ‘system of language’

Utterance  Pragmatics
◦ Meaning in actual language use; meaning as
conveyed by an expression in real speech;
patterns in speech (outside grammar/lexicon) –
re: reln b/w speaker & hearer
Sentence vs Utterance Mng

Is the sem-prag division real?...

Some linguists reject the division or are
dubious about the ‘division of labor’ b/w
the two
More to come…

P 134
◦ Students: note fig 6.1 – try to ‘read’ it; it’s
worthwhile. However, I think the first sentence
below the figure shd be ‘value and INtension…’
– not EX- look above the two people and
you’ll see a rectangle w/ value and intension in
it. At the top is a tree diagram: the
metaphorical EXtension

Re: the semantics of lexical items which
must be listed separately in the lexicon.

These are signs and we will focus on their
senses
Semantics

3 interrelated key issues in Lex Sem:
◦ Pinning down & identifying the meanings of
lexical items
◦ Relns amongst lexical items’ meanings
◦ The specification of the meaning of items
The value of a sign depends on its contrasts with
the rest of the language system
Semantics – issues

Homophony
◦ 2 different lexemes share the same
phonological form (port, bank, bouy/boy)
Semantics: concerns

Homophony
◦ 2 different lexemes share the same
phonological form (port, bank, bouy/boy)
 Partial homophones: ‘bear’ (N & V) – shares same
phonological form in some inflected forms but not
all:
◦ Bear, bears
◦ Bear, bears; bore; born
Semantics: concerns

Polysemy
◦ Identical forms have related meanings
◦ ‘ear’ = hearing organ; attention; ability;
favorable disposition; etc
Semantics: concerns

Polysemy
◦ Identical forms have related meanings
◦ ‘ear’ = hearing organ; attention; ability;
favorable disposition; etc

Dictionaries tend to separate homophones
but not polysemous terms; however
distinction is not always easy
Semantics: concerns
Polysemy
 Cf. ear:

◦ Above e.g.s are easy to relate
◦ But ‘ear of corn’ (though usually listed
separately in dictionaries) is often imagined
to resemble the above ‘ear’
◦ Lexicographers go beyond folk etymology
(usually) and look into OE & ME
Semantics: concerns
Polysemy
 bank

◦ Few of us see semantic reln b/w ‘ridge’ & ‘$’
◦ Dictionaries tend to treat them separately
Semantics: polysemy that you can
bank on
Polysemy
 bank

◦ Few of us see semantic reln b/w ‘ridge’ & ‘$’
◦ Dictionaries tend to treat them separately
◦ Both originate from *bangk in Proto-Germanic
(offshoot of Proto I-E <4m BC> & parent of
English, German, Dutch, Nor, Swed, Dk, Ic)
Semantics: polysemy that you can
bank on

Polysemy
◦ *bangk in Proto-Germanic = ‘ridge, mound,
bordering slope’
Semantics: concerns

Polysemy
◦ *bangk in Proto-Germanic = ‘ridge, mound,
bordering slope’
◦ Ridge>bench>moneylender’s counter>money
lender’s shop>financial institution
Semantics: concerns

Polysemy
◦ *bangk in Proto-Germanic = ‘ridge, mound,
bordering slope’
◦ Ridge>bench>moneylender’s counter>money
lender’s shop>financial institution
◦ Ridge>slope>side of watercourse
Semantics: concerns

Polysemy
◦ *bangk in Proto-Germanic = ‘ridge, mound,
bordering slope’
◦ Ridge>bench>moneylender’s counter>money
lender’s shop>financial institution
◦ Ridge>slope>side of watercourse
◦ …typical semantic extension
Semantics: concerns

Vagueness
◦ A lack of specificity of meaning
◦ Recall ‘ear’ = ‘hearing organ’
 ‘in your ear’
Semantics

Vagueness
◦ A lack of specificity of meaning
◦ Recall ‘ear’ = ‘hearing organ’
 ‘in your ear’
◦ But also: ‘pull your ear’ & ‘scratch its ear’
Semantics

Vagueness
◦ A lack of specificity of meaning
◦ Recall ‘ear’ = ‘hearing organ’
 ‘in your ear’
◦ But also: ‘pull your ear’ & ‘scratch its ear’
◦ The mental concepts invoked in each differ
Semantics
Vagueness
 ‘in your ear’

◦ Ear as an orifice
Semantics: concerns
Vagueness
 ‘in your ear’

◦ Ear as an orifice

‘pull your ear’
◦ Ear as an appendage of human head
Semantics: concerns
Vagueness
 ‘in your ear’

◦ Ear as an orifice

‘pull your ear’
◦ Ear as an appendage of human head

‘scratch its ear’
◦ Ear as appendage of dog’s head
Semantics: concerns

Vagueness
◦ We don’t usually think of these as polysemies
of ear – because they’re so closely related
Semantics: concerns

Vagueness
◦ We don’t usually think of these as polysemies
of ear – because they’re so closely related

See also ‘wrong’
◦ Depending on its sentence, the meaning gets
narrowed
Semantics: concerns

Vagueness
◦ ‘wrong…
 to speak w/ your mouth full’ (improper)
 to take Indian kids from their moms’ (immmoral)
 to attribute that quote to Saussure’ (incorrect)
Semantics: concerns

Vagueness
◦ ‘wrong…
 to speak w/ your mouth full’ (improper)
 to take Indian kids from their moms’ (immmoral)
 to attribute that quote to Saussure’ (incorrect)
◦ A general sense covers these but the sentential
context narrows the meaning down
Semantics: concerns

These are: contextual meanings
◦ They aren’t fixed (vs. sense of a lexeme)
Semantics: concerns

These are: contextual meanings
◦ They aren’t fixed (vs. sense of a lexeme)
◦ Cf. ‘it was wrong for the govt to have taken the
Indian children’
 This doesn’t necessarily invoke a moral comment
Semantics: concerns

These are: contextual meanings
◦ They aren’t fixed (vs. sense of a lexeme)
◦ Cf. ‘it was wrong for the govt to have taken the
Indian children’
 This doesn’t necessarily invoke a moral comment

Vagueness-polysemy =
Semantics: concerns

These are: contextual meanings
◦ They aren’t fixed (vs. sense of a lexeme)
◦ Cf. ‘it was wrong for the govt to have taken the
Indian children’
 This doesn’t necessarily invoke a moral comment

Vagueness-polysemy = variations on
degrees of abstraction
Semantics: concerns

Lexemes relate to each other semantically
in various ways, & form a highly
structured system
Semantics: Lex Sem relns

Lexemes relate to each other semantically
in various ways, & form a highly
structured system

As a huge network vs. a mere listing
Semantics: Lex Sem relns

Lexemes relate to each other semantically
in various ways, & form a highly
structured system

As a huge network vs. a mere listing

4 types of sem reln: synonymy,
antonymy, hyponymy, & meronymy
Semantics: Lex Sem relns

Synonymy
◦ Reln of sameness/similarity (p 137)

Exact synonyms are rare (impossible?)

Often differentiate registers/dialects

May differ in their collocations
Semantics: lex sem relns

Antonyms
◦ Gradable
 Allow intermediate degrees: used w/
comparatives
 Its negation doesn’t imply its opposite
◦ Non-gradable: polaric
Semantics: lex sem relns

Hyponymy
◦ One lexeme includes another
◦ Tool: hammer, saw, chisel, screwdriver…
 Hypernym: tool
 Hyponyms: saw, hammer,…
◦ Common in some semantic domains:
 Kinship, colors, plants/animals
Semantics: lex sem relns

Meronymy
◦ Part-whole reln
◦ Door & window are meronyms of room
◦ Wheel & pedal are meronyms of bicycle
Semantics: lex sem relns

Meronymy
◦ Part-whole reln
◦ Door & window are meronyms of room
◦ Wheel & pedal are meronyms of bicycle
differs from hyponymy in the notion of
transitivity
Semantics: lex sem relns

Difference in transitivity b/w meronyms &
hyponyms
◦ Alsatian>dog>animal (hyponyms)
Semantics: lex sem relns

Difference in transitivity b/w meronyms &
hyponyms
◦ Alsatian>dog>animal (hyponyms)
◦ Nostril>nose (meronym)
◦ Nose>face (meronym)
Semantics: lex sem relns

Difference in transitivity b/w meronyms &
hyponyms
◦
◦
◦
◦
Alsatian>dog>animal (hyponyms)
Nostril>nose (meronym)
Nose>face (meronym)
But nostril>face (not meronym)
 We don’t say a nostril is part of a face (we could
but we don’t normally conceptualize it as such)
Semantics: lex sem relns
Hyponymy is transitive
 Meronymy is not.

Semantics: lex sem relns
Hyponymy is transitive
 Meronymy is not.


These are lexical networks – not network
relations in the ‘real world’
Semantics: lex sem relns


Hyponymy is transitive
Meronymy is not.

These are lexical networks – not network
relations in the ‘real world’


Folk conceptualizations vs. science
Whale = mammal? fish?
Semantics: lex sem relns

To pin down the sense of a word…
◦ (e.g. ‘mother’)
◦ Decide if diff mngs belong to diff lex items
sharing the same form
◦ Or are polysemies
◦ Or are separate contextual mngs

One technique is componential analysis
Semantics: lex sem relns
Componential analysis
◦ A lexeme’s semantic mng is decomposed
◦ Identifies features that differentiate words
◦ E.g. +/- animate
Semantics: lex sem relns

Componential analysis
◦ Criticized by prototype theory for its
intensional definitions
◦ Component features are more technical than
the term they describe
Semantics: lex sem relns

Semantics = mng as encoded in Lx form
Pragmatics: utterance mng

Semantics = mng as encoded in Lx form

But there’s more to meaning-making than
this
Pragmatics: utterance mng

Semantics = mng as encoded in Lx form

But there’s more to meaning-making than
this

The sounds that make up speech merely
outline mng; listeners then fill
in/extrapolates
Pragmatics: utterance mng

We excel at ‘reading into’ things (+/-)
Pragmatics

We excel at ‘reading into’ things (+/-)

2 types of mng we fill in:
◦ What the spkr intends to do with the utterance
–why they spoke it in the first place - & how its
inferred
Pragmatics

We excel at ‘reading into’ things (+/-)

2 types of mng we fill in:
◦ What the spkr intends to do with the utterance
–why they spoke it in the first place - & how its
inferred
◦ Reference or referential meaning
Pragmatics

Speech is a social act – it’s for doing
stuff
Prag: Speech Acts

Speech is a social act – it’s for doing
stuff

Informing, promising, requesting,
questioning, commanding, warning,
preaching, congratulating, betting,
swearing, exclaiming….are speech acts
Prag: Speech Acts

Speech is a social act – it’s for doing
stuff

Informing, promising, requesting,
questioning, commanding, warning,
preaching, congratulating, betting,
swearing, exclaiming….are speech acts

Type of action performed by speaking =
its illocutionary force
Prag: Speech Acts

Sentences which make explicit their
illocutionary force by a speech act verb
= performatives
Prag: Speech Acts: performatives

Sentences which make explicit their
illocutionary force by a speech act verb
= performatives
◦
◦
◦
◦
◦
◦
I
I
I
I
I
I
bet you…
resign.
apologize.
dare you…
pronounce you man & wife.
order you to…
Prag: Speech Acts: performatives

Most sp acts are not so obvious
◦ Cf. ‘the car broke down yesterday’ as a
statement or a request/refusal
Prag: Sp Acts: direct sp acts

Most sp acts are not so obvious
◦ Cf. ‘the car broke down yesterday’ as a
statement or a request/refusal

Direct speech acts
◦ Naturally associated with form
 Grammatically specified (table 6.1)
 Lexically specified (performatives)
Prag: Sp Acts: direct sp acts

When a syntactic form is used with an
atypical illocutionary force: indirect
speech act
◦ ‘can you pass the salt?’
 Question? Command? Request?

often used for politeness
Prag: Sp Acts: INdirect sp acts

‘I pronounce you man & wife’ only works
if the speaker is authorized
Prag: Sp Acts: felicity conditions

‘I pronounce you man & wife’ only works
if the speaker is authorized

‘Where are my glasses’ & ‘Please give me
my glasses’ only achieve their intended
purposes
Prag: Sp Acts: felicity conditions

‘I pronounce you man & wife’ only works
if the speaker is authorized

‘Where are my glasses’ & ‘Please give me
my glasses’ only achieve their intended
purposes when the spkr doesn’t know
where his/her glasses are & when spkr
doesn’t have the glasses (respectively)
Prag: Sp Acts: felicity conditions

The link b/w utterances & people, things,
places, & times that are being referred to
Pragmatics: reference

The link b/w utterances & people, things,
places, & times that are being referred to

Different from sense -it is not what is
inherently assoc’d with linguistic forms
Pragmatics: reference

The link b/w utterances & people, things,
places, & times that are being referred to

Different from sense -it is not what is
inherently assoc’d with linguistic forms

Words don’t refer, our usage of them does
◦ E.g. NP tokens refer
Pragmatics: reference

All languages have wds/morphs we use to
help pin down reference
◦ Proper nouns
 Noam Chomsky
Pragmatics: reference

All languages have wds/morphs we use to
help pin down reference
◦ Proper nouns
 Noam Chomsky
◦ Articles
 The, a/an
Pragmatics: reference

All languages have wds/morphs we use to
help pin down reference
◦ Proper nouns
 Noam Chomsky
◦ Articles
 The, a/an
◦ Deictics
 Pronouns, demonstratives, space & time adverbs
Pragmatics: reference

Deictics
◦ Identify things by relating them to the social,
linguistic, spatial, or temporal context of an
utterance
◦ Their reference varies with each utterance
Pragmatics: reference

Deictics
◦ Identify things by relating them to the social,
linguistic, spatial, or temporal context of an
utterance
◦ Their reference varies with each utterance

Pron: I, you, s/he, we…
Pragmatics: reference

Deictics
◦ Identify things by relating them to the social,
linguistic, spatial, or temporal context of an
utterance
◦ Their reference varies with each utterance
Pron: I, you, s/he, we…
 Demon: this,that (spatial deixis)
 Adv: here,there (spatial deixis)

Pragmatics: reference

Deictics
◦ Identify things by relating them to the social,
linguistic, spatial, or temporal context of an
utterance
◦ Their reference varies with each utterance
Pron: I, you, s/he, we…
 Demon: this,that (spatial deixis)
 Adv: here,there (spatial deixis)
 Today, tomorrow, now, then (temp deixis)

Pragmatics: reference

Caveat:
◦ The above deictics, though specifying
referents, also have senses.
Pragmatics: reference

Caveat:
◦ The above deictics, though specifying
referents, also have senses.
◦ E.g. pronouns are ‘encoded’ for person,
number, case, gender.
Pragmatics: reference

Caveat:
◦ The above deictics, though specifying
referents, also have senses.
◦ E.g. pronouns are ‘encoded’ for person,
number, case, gender.
◦ Yet their full mng comes only when uttered
 ‘he’ then takes on the mng of ‘that guy’
Pragmatics: reference

A principle of interpretation & inferencing
shared by spkrs & hearers, permitting the
utterance mng intended by a spkr to be
reliably inferred by the hearer
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

This interpretive procedure is constituted
by four component maxims:
◦ Quantity: make your contribution as
informative as req’d (non more or less)
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

This interpretive procedure is constituted
by four component maxims:
◦ Quantity: make your contribution as
informative as req’d (non more or less)
◦ Quality: don’t lie
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

This interpretive procedure is constituted
by four component maxims:
◦ Quantity: make your contribution as
informative as req’d (non more or less)
◦ Quality: don’t lie
◦ Relevance: don’t be irrelevant
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

This interpretive procedure is constituted
by four component maxims:
◦ Quantity: make your contribution as
informative as req’d (non more or less)
◦ Quality: don’t lie
◦ Relevance: don’t be irrelevant
◦ Manner: be perspicuous – avoid ambiguity,
prolixity, disorderliness & obscurity
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

These are principles governing the
inferences we draw – they’re not rules
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

These are principles governing the
inferences we draw – they’re not rules

When we flout these maxims, we do so to
achieve an end (& thus they differ from
grammar rules)
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

These are principles governing the
inferences we draw – they’re not rules

When we flout these maxims, we do so to
achieve an end (& thus they differ from
grammar rules)

We don’t break grammar rules for effect
Pragmatics: The coop princ.
Q. Are you ready?
 A. Is the pope Catholic?

Pragmatics: The coop princ.
Q. Are you ready?
 A. Is the pope Catholic?

A Y/N Q is interpreted as a response to it
Maxim of Relevance = the Answer shd be relevant
Pragmatics: The coop princ.
Q. Are you ready?
 A. Is the pope Catholic?

A Y/N Q is interpreted as a response to it
Maxim of Relevance = the Answer shd be relevant

Thus against all odds, such Q&A succeeds
due to aspects of the cooperative principle
Pragmatics: The coop princ.

Implicit assumptions invoked by certain
sentences as required truths in order for
utterance of the sentence to be
appropriate or reasonable

6-13  6-16 (p 147)

Allows more efficient discourse
Pragmatics: presuppositions
Pragmatics: presuppositions

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