SEMANTICSSee also “Semantic Gaps and Sources of New Words”: SEMANTICS See also 'Semantic Gaps and Sources of New Words' by Alleen Pace Nilsen
and Don L. F. Nilsen
AMBIGUITIES: AMBIGUITIES I saw him walking by the bank.
We laughed at the colorful ball.
The police were urged to stop drinking by the fifth.
I said I would file it on Thursday. Slide3: I cannot recommend visiting professors too highly.
The license fee for pets owned by senior citizens who have not been altered is $1.50.
What looks better on a handsome man than a tux? Nothing!
(Attributed to Mae West)
(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 211) COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLE: COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLE H. P. Grice said that we should be communicative, relevant, brief, and truthful.
QUANTITY: Say neither more nor less than the discourse requires. Slide5: RELEVANCE: Be relevant.
MANNER: Be brief and orderly; avoid ambiguity and obscurity.
QUALITY: Do not lie; do not make unsupported claims.
NOTE: The characters we remember both from literature and from real life are the ones who violate these principles.
(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 205) DEIXIS: DEIXIS Deictic words get their meanings from the time, the place, or the persons in the context:
TIME: after, before, last week, next April, now, seven days ago, then, that time, this time, tomorrow, two weeks from now… Slide7: PLACE: back, before, behind, front, here, left, right, that place, there, these parks, this city, those towers over there, yonder mountains…
PERSON: he, her, hers, him, his, I, it, me, mine, our, ours, she, their, they, them, us, we, you, your, yours…
(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 203) FRAME SEMANTICS : FRAME SEMANTICS Using Predicate Calculus as a model, Charles Fillmore devised Case Grammar, in which verbs are classified in terms of their arguments.
Here, the environment becomes the 'case frame.'
Each case frame is thought of as a small abstract scene or situation.
To understand the semantic structure of the verb, it is necessary to understand the properties of such schematized scenes.
(Hobin 5, Fillmore 1982, 115) Slide9: A verb can be intransitive, linking, transitive or ditransitive. Although this is a syntactic notion, it has important semantic consequences.
Syntactic transitivity involves Subjects, Subject Complements, Direct Objects, Indirect Objects and Object Complements. Slide10: Fillmore says that If we change from a syntactic to a semantic bias, we can say that the 'case frame' of a verb involves the following 'Deep Cases': Agent, Instrument, Experiencer, Object, Source, Path, Goal, Time, Place, Manner, Extent, Reason, etc.
(Nilsen and Nilsen Semantic Theory, 104-105)
Slide11: If we do this, we can say that the different types of verbs have different case frames, so that the following classifications are not only semantic, but syntactic as well:
CHANGE VERBS: brighten, demolish
CONTACT VERBS: hit, touch
EXPERIENCE VERBS: see, enjoy
LOCATION VERBS: bottle, button
MOTION VERBS: walk, throw
SYMMETRICAL PREDICATES: resemble
The verbs in each of these categories tend to have the same 'Case Frames' as do the other verbs in the same category (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 1975, 104-105) Slide12: Lakoff seems to be cementing terminology that has previously been unstable.
In 1985, Fillmore developed his frame semantics.
Since that time various terms have been proposed—'Frame' by Minsky, Winograd and Charniak, 'Schema' by Bartlett and Rulmelhart, 'Scripts' by Schank and Abelson, 'Global Pattern by de Beaugrande and Dressler, 'Pseudo-text' by Wilks, 'Cognitive Model' by Lakoff, 'Experiential Gestalt' by Lakoff and Johnson, 'Base' by Langacker, 'Scenes' by Fillmore, etc.
(Hobin 4, Fillmore 1985, 223) HOMONOMY VS. POLYSEMY: HOMONOMY VS. POLYSEMY Two different words that sound or look alike are called 'homonyms.'
Two different senses of a single word are called 'polysemes.'
A 'wedding ring,' a 'boxing ring,' and a 'bathtub ring' are polysemes, but what about a ring on a telephone?
(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 192) HUMPTY DUMPTY LANGUAGE: HUMPTY DUMPTY LANGUAGE 'There’s glory for you!'
'I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory.’' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously.
'Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’' Slide15: 'But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 186)
(from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass)
IDIOMS: IDIOMS IRONY: IRONY I’m not kidding.
Some of my best friends are…black, gay, Mexican, women….
To make a long story short.
(Mey 266) LEGAL LANGUAGE: LEGAL LANGUAGE Because it has to account for all possibilities, legal language must be precise and sometimes a bit redundant. That’s why lawyers use such terms as 'cease and desist,' or 'give and bequeath.'
A sign in the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park, however, takes this type of language a bit further: Slide19:
'Please do not annoy, torment, pester, plague, molest, worry, badger, harry, harass, heckle, persecute, irk, bullyrag, vex, disquiet, grate, beset, bother, tease, nettle, tantalize, or ruffle the animals.
(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 189) PRESUPPOSITION: PRESUPPOSITION 'Fats regretted that he had to pay alimony to Bessie' presupposes that 'Fats had to pay alimony to Bessie.'
'Fats did not regret that he had to pay alimony to Bessie' also presupposes that 'Fats had to pay alimony to Bessie.'
(Mey 20) SPEECH ACTS: SPEECH ACTS Commissives (Affect Speaker, Subjective)
TYPES: Oath, Offer, Promise
Declaratives (Change the Macrocosmic Social World)
TYPES: Baptism, Marriage
Directives (Change the Microcosmic Social World)
TYPES: Command, Request
Expressives (Feelings of Speaker)
TYPES: Apology, Thanks
Slide22: Interrogatives (Hearer Knows Best)
TYPES: Closed (yes-no), Loaded, Open
Imperatives (Directives) (Affect Hearer)
TYPES: Request, Requirement, Threat, Warning
Performatives (Affect world)
TYPES: Agreement, Appointment, Baptism, Declaration of Independence, Dedication, Marriage
Representatives (Objective Descriptive Statements)
TYPES: Statement that is either True or False
(Mey 120, Searle 1977, 34)
SYNTAX VS. SEMANTICS: SYNTAX VS. SEMANTICS Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
Chomsky points out that from a syntactic perspective, this sentence is perfect. But he says it is 'meaningless' because 'colorless' cancels out 'green' etc.
Chomsky, therefore, wants to exclude such sentences from discussion. (Mey 20)
'Haj Ross and George Lakoff were the first to protest against this syntactic straitjacket.' (Mey 22) THEMATIC ROLES: THEMATIC ROLES Subject, Direct Object and Indirect Object are syntactically determined. Deep Cases like Actor, Experiencer, Instrument, and Object (or Patient) are semantically determined.
Actor = Animate Cause
Experiencer = Animate Effect
Instrument = Inanimate Cause
Object = Inaminate Effect
Slide25: Normally, the most active deep case is selected as the subject of the sentence:
The Actor if there is one
If not, the Instrument if there is one
If there is no Actor or Instrument, the Object becomes eligible. Therefore we have the following: Slide26: The boy opened the door with the key.
The key opened the door.
The door opened.
Non Actors as Subjects: Non Actors as Subjects The cake smelled good.
The cake tasted good.
The painting looked great.
The bell sounded loud.
The fur felt soft.
MORE TYPICAL SENTENCES: MORE TYPICAL SENTENCES Someone smelled the cake.
Someone tasted the cake.
Someone looked at the painting.
Someone heard the bell.
Someone felt the fur.
Slide29: In an Active Sentence the most active Deep Case is eligible to become the Subject and the least active is eligible to become the Direct Object.
In a Passive Sentence the least active Deep Case is eligible to become the Subject and the most active case becomes an Object of the Preposition 'by.' Slide30: But what about converses like 'buy' and 'sell,' or 'rent to' and 'rent from'?
'John bought the car from Mary' is true if and only if 'Mary sold the car to John' is true.
'John rented the house to Mary' is true if and only if 'Mary rented the house from John.'
TRUTH: TRUTH It’s cold outside. (empirical)
A king is a ruler. (linguistic)
Life is a box of chocolates (general metaphorical)
Saphire Lake (specific metaphorical)
Happy Birthday! (speech act: wish) Slide32: John Saw Mary. = Mary was seen by John.
John broke the window with a hammer. = The window broke.
John bought a car from Mary. = Mary sold a car to John.
John rented the house from Mary. = Mary rented the house to John.
Half of the students in the class are boys. = Half of the students in the class are not boys.
(Mey 21) Slide33: John and Mary had a child = Mary and John had a child.
Getting married and having a child is better than having a child and getting married. =/= Having a child and getting married is better than getting married and having a child. (Mey 24) Slide34: I got drunk and crashed my car =/= I crashed my car and got drunk.
Mary is a nice girl and she takes swimming lessons. ct. Mary is a nice girl but she is poor at tennis.
Jacob Mey says, 'communication is not a matter of logic or truth, but of cooperation.'
(Mey 70) !SNIGLETS: !SNIGLETS Rich Hall invented the term 'sniglet' for a word that should be in the dictionary, but isn’t.
Elbonics (el bon’ iks) n. The actions of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater
Esso Asso (eso a’so): The person behind you in a right-hand turn lane who cuts through the Esso Station
Pupkus (pup’kus) n. The moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it
Phonesia (fo nee’ zhuh) n. The affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer
(Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 177)
References # 1:: References # 1: Aitchison, Jean. 'Bad Birds and Better Birds: Prototype Theories' (Clark 225-239).
Chomsky, Noam. Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton, 1957.
Clark, Virginia, Paul Eschholz, and Alfred Rosa. Language: Readings in Language and Culture, 6th Edition. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
Eschholz, Paul, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. Language Awareness: Readings for College Writers, Ninth Edition. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.
Fillmore, Charles. 'Frames and the Semantics of Understanding.' Quaderni Di Semantica 6 (1985): 222-253.
Francis, W. Nelson. 'Word-Making: Some Sources of New Words' (Clark 154-165).
References # 2:: References # 2: Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman, and Nina Hyams. 'Semantics: The Meaning of Language.' An Introduction to Language, 8th Edition. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007, 173-220.
Hobin, Suzanne. 'The Effect of Conceptual Metaphors on Political and Social Thought.' MA Thesis. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, 2005.
Jacobs, Roderick A., and Peter S. Rosenbaum. 'What Do Native Speakers Know about Their Language?' (Clark, 183-188).
Lakoff, George. 'Presupposition and Relative Well-Formedness.' In: Semantics: An Interdisciplinary Reader in Philosophy, Linguistics, and Psychology. Eds. Danny Steinberg and Leon Jakobovits. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Unviversity Press, 1968, 329-340.
Lakoff, George. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
References # 3:: References # 3: Mey, Jacob L. Pragmatics: An Introduction, 2nd Edition. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 2001.
Nilsen, Alleen Pace. 'The Wonder of Words.' Living Language. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999, 45-88.
Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.
Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Vocabulary Plus: High School and Up: A Source-Based Approach. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2004.
Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Vocabulary Plus: K-8: A Source-Based Approach. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2004.
References # 4:: References # 4:
Nilsen, Don L. F., and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Language Play. Rowley, MA: Newbury House, 1978.
Nilsen, Don L. F., and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Semantic Theory. Rowley, MA: Newbury House, 1975.
Pinker, Steven. 'The Tower of Babel' (Clark 257-260).
Raskin, Victor. Semantic Mechanisms of Humor. New York, NY: Reidel/Kluwer, 1985.
Searle, John R. A Classification of Illocutionary Acts.' In Proceedings of the Texas Conference on Performatives, Presuppositions, and Implicatures. Eds. Andy Rogers, Bob Wall and John P. Murphy, Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1977, 27-45.
Strawson, Peter F. 'On Referring.' Mind. 59 (1950): 320-344.