What is Semantics?

SEMANTICS is derived from French word sémantique, applied by MICHEL BRÉAL (1883) to the psychology of language, from Greek semantikos ” significant ,” from semainein “to show by sign, signify, point out, indicate by a sign,” from sema ” sign, mark, token; omen, portent; constellation; grave”. what is Semantics? semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases and sentences.

Every language has the source of expression of meaningful ideas. This term refers to the study of meaning and the systematic ways those meanings are expressed in language. The structure of a language expresses the meaning which exists in one’s mind. The idea may be conveyed through the written and spoken forms of a language. As semantics is the study of meaning in language and language is used to express meanings which can be understood by others.

what is semantics

So, what is semantics, semantics is that level of linguistics analysis where meaning is analyzed. It is the most abstract level of linguistics analysis since one cannot see or observes meaning as one can observe and record sounds. Meaning is related very closely to the human capacity to think logically and to understand.

Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics by JACK C. RICHARDS and RICHARD SCHMIDT defines Semantics as: “The study of meaning. There are many different approaches to the way in which meaning in language is studied.” Terms by MARTIN GRAY: “The study of the meaning of words: how words express their meanings, and how their meanings have changed in time.” Regarding this level of linguistics, many theories are introduced, one of which is Semantic Field Theory.

It is also important to understand how linguistics have defined the term what is semantics.

What is Semantics from scholar’s perspectives?

The term “semantic field” was introduced by G. IPSEN in 1924s and the origin of the field theory of semantics is the lexical field theory introduced by JOST TRIER in the 1930s, although according to JOHN LYONS it has historical roots in the ideas of WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT and JOHANN GOTTFRIED HERDER. In the 1960s STEPHEN ULLMANN saw semantic fields as crystallizing and perpetuating the values of society.

For JOHN LYONS in the 1970S words related in any sense belonged to the same semantic field, and the semantic field was simply a lexical category, which he described as a lexical field. Lyons emphasized the distinction between semantic fields and semantic networks. In the 1980s EVA KITTAY developed a semantic field theory of metaphor. This approach is based on the idea that the items in a semantic field have specific relations to other items in the same field, and that a metaphor works by re-ordering the relations of a field by mapping them on to the existing relations of another field.

SUE ATKINS and CHARLES J . FILLMORE in the 1990s proposed frame semantics as an alternative to semantic field theory. “In linguistics, a semantic field is a set of words grouped semantically (by meaning) that refers to a specific subject. The term is also used in anthropology, computational semiotics, and technical exegesis.”

Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics by JACK C. RICHARDS and RICHARD SCHMIDT defines Semantic Field Theory as: “The organization of related words and expressions into a system which shows their relationship to one another.” Different linguists define Semantic Field Theory in different ways.

ADRIENNE LEHRER defines Semantic Field Theory in these words: “A semantic field is a group of words closely related in meaning, often subsumed under a general term” And JOHN LYONS describes it as: “. ……A field of whose members are lexemes is a lexical field” The theory of semantic field assumes that lexemes that are semantically related, whether paradigmatic-ally or syntagmatic-ally within a given language system belongs to some semantic field.

The lexical items of language can be classified into sets, which are related semantically and divide up the semantic field in various ways. For example, the field of “TRANSFER OF POSSESSION” includes such lexemes as sell, buy, trade, exchange, give, receive, lend, borrow, hire and rent. Basic to this theory is the concept of FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE that each word in a language is surrounded by a network of associations which cannot with still other terms. It explains the vocabulary or lexicon of a language as a system of interrelated network or semantic fields.

Words that are interrelated may belong to the same semantic field, for example, tree, branch, root, flower, stem and fruit. Sometimes, we see overlap between fields, for example, the field of flower, and tree may overlap in relation to plant and grow. This theory provides the situation of collocation. The items for collocation are selected from the lexicon of the same field. For example, plant collocates with growing, flower with bloom, letters with writing etc. These networks and collocations are built on sense relations in a language. The figure green below shows the network of associations of terms which converge to a certain point. Plant. → Grow, Bloom Plantation, Irrigation, Cultivation Plant

Accordingly, what is semantics? semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases and sentences.

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