LINC12H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Word-Sense Disambiguation, Semasiology, Lexicography

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28 Feb 2013
Chapter 2
Meaning and the dictionary
concept of words meaning linked to concept of definition - Aristotle
linguistic ideology - complex of pretheoretical ideas about the nature and role of
Semantics and lexicography
lexicography - dictionary writing, practical work to put together a book people can
understand, not theoretical
linguistic semantic - is theoretical, language is diff from a dictionary because it is a
sum of impressions deposited in the brain of each member, dictionary has identical
mental lexicon - stock of words and associated meaning in the brain
semantics goal then is to specify the stored meaning representation associated with
each lexeme in the mental lexicon
History of the dictionary
o monolingual dictionaries didn’t exist until 16th century in the West
o glossaries or word lists used before
o modern monolingual dictionary for people who wanted guidance in language
they already spoke
o definitions found in dictionaries are result of word based or semasiological
approach to meaning
starts with languages lexemes and specifies meaning of each one, specifies
differences between words
onomasiological approach opposite of semasiological, starts with meaning
and lists all possible forms available in the language for expression,
emphasizes similarities
difference between the two approaches corresponds to difference between
a dictionary and thesaurus, semasiological = dictionary
Units of Meaning
Defining what a word is is hard to do by looking at writing is because of two
o Speakers of the same language from different regions of a country
could classify what a word is differently (writing the sentence
o Orthographic practices are unstable
‘potential pause’ – words are units before and/or after which pauses can be
found in spoken language (cant be used for morphologically complex
languages like English)
word as minimum free form (bloomfield) minimal unit which may appear
on its own without any additional grammatical material ---INSUFFICIENT for
words like the, of, is
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2 levels words can be defined phonological (calculating stress syllables),
grammatical (cohesiveness, fixed order and conventionalized coherence and
Mismatches between grammatical and phonological words
Morpheme minimal meaning bearing unit, below lexeme
Above the word level, there are phrasal verbs (touch down, get on with, play
around) and noun compounds (tree house, space age, tennis match) where a
single meaning comes from both words
Sound Symbolism (ideophony/onomatopoeia)
Semi-systematic correspondences between certain sounds and meanings
(clash, clang, clatter)
Possible connection might be the acoustic quality of fricative and irregular
sound of referent
Meanings above word level Idioms
non compositional phrases (throw in the towel, break a leg) whose overall
meaning isn’t the same as the combined meaning of its individual parts
we can solve the problem of non compositionality by interpreting it partly
idiom can also be non compositional morphemes (sublexical) ‘able’
considerable, fashionable
o noun incorporation independent noun stems compounded with a
verb stem to produce a larger, derived verbs
Contextual modulation of meaning
Collocation immediate linguistic context in which words/morphemes occur
Variation occurs in all of language
I cut my foot…vs I cut the grass/I cut the diamond….nature of the event
varies, by means by which it is accomplished, its extent of deliberateness
o Contextual modulation of meaning degree of semantic difference
gets even greater if we consider more extended meanings (cut
corners, cut a deal)
o General Meaning hypothesis cut may have same vague meaning in
all its different collocations (cut my foot, cut a diamond), it refers to
the same act (material breach)
PROBLEM =definition is not adequate for all situations, too
general and fail to distinguish differences between verbs in
same semantic field
o Multiple meaning hypothesis cut may have a separate meaning in
each collocation cut ones foot = accidental, cut a diamond=
PROBLEM= sheer number of different senses attributing to a
verb, how do we ascribe the correct specific meaning in each
given case with all the different senses the verb has?...
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