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Semantics

Semantics is the branch of linguistics


that deals with the study of meaning,
changes in meaning, and the
principles that govern the relationship
between sentences or words and their
meanings.
It is the study of the relationships
between signs and symbols and what
they represent.
What is semantics?
Semantics is the study of meaning in
language. It is a wide subject within the
general study of language.
An understanding of semantics is
essential to the study of language
acquisition (how language users acquire a
sense of meaning, as speakers and
writers, listeners and readers).
It is also essential to the study of
language change (how meanings alter
over time).
It is important for understanding language
in social contexts, as these are likely to
affect meaning, and for understanding
varieties of English and effects of style.
It is thus one of the most fundamental
concepts in linguistics.
The study of semantics includes the study
of how meaning is constructed,
interpreted, clarified, obscured, illustrated,
simplified, negotiated, contradicted, and
paraphrased.
Some important areas of semantic theory or
related subjects include these:
Symbol and referent
Conceptions of meaning
Words and lexemes
Denotation, connotation, implication
Pragmatics
Ambiguity
Metaphor, simile and symbol
Semantic fields
Synonym, antonym and hyponym
Collocation, fixed expression and idiom
Semantic change and etymology
Polysemy
Homonymy, homophones and
homographs
Lexicology and lexicography
Thesauruses, libraries and Web portals
Epistemology
Colour
The noun semantics and the adjective
semantic are derived from the Greek
word semantikos (significant).
In linguistics, semantics is the
subfield that is devoted to the study of
meaning, as borne on the syntactic
levels of words, phrases, sentences,
and sometimes larger units of
discourse, generically referred to as
texts.


For thousands of years, philosophers
have pondered the meaning of
meaning, yet speakers of a language
can understand what is said to them
and can produce strings of words that
are meaningful to other speakers.
To understand language we need to
know the meaning of words and
the morphemes that compose
them. We also must know how the
meanings of words combine into
phrases and sentence meanings.
Finally, we must consider context
when determining meaning.
The study of the linguistic
meaning of morphemes, words,
phrases, and sentences is called
Semantics.
Subfields of semantics are lexical (of or
relating to the vocabulary, words, or
morphemes of a language) semantics,
which is concerned with the meanings
of words, and the meaning
relationships among words; and phrasal
or sentential semantics, which is
concerned with the meaning of
syntactic units larger than the word.


The study of how context affects
meaning is called Pragmatics.

For example, the sentence "It's cold
in here" can be interpreted in certain
situations as "close the windows".
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously

The sentence "Colorless green ideas
sleep furiously" was presented by
Chomsky as a great example of a series
of words strung together randomly. It
grammatical according to the lexical
classification, however, it is non-sense
on a semantic level. Or so goes the
claim. But is the claim correct?

According to a well-established usage
of the word "green", a green idea is
one that is new and untried. Again, a
colorless idea is one without vividness,
dull, and unexciting. So it follows that
a colorless green idea is a new, untried
idea that is without vividness, dull, and
unexciting.

To sleep is, among other things, to be
in a state of dormancy or inactivity, or
in a state of unconsciousness. To sleep
furiously may seem a puzzling turn of
phrase but one reflects that the mind in
sleep often indeed moves furiously with
ideas and images flickering in and out.
So, what is the poet telling us? (One
assumes that the quoted line is from
the work of a poet working in a
medium of studied precision and
ambiguity. Or rather, as we shall see...)
Very simply the poet seems to be saying
that new ideas, not yet sharply defined,
circulate in the unconscious, rapidly
altering at a furious rate.
One is left then with a question. Why is
this nice bit of poetic imagery cited by its
author as a quintessentially meaningless
sentence? Here we have an exquisite bit
of irony. The author evidently has a turn
for poetry, a turn which he turns his face
against. And the hidden face, the denied
self, has taken its revenge. The scientist
has called on his creative self to exhibit a
bit of nonsense.
The poet denied has replied with a
sentence, apparently meaningless, which
is no such thing when listened to with an
attentive ear. And yet consider; this
sentence is a very intellectualized
production - it is indeed "colorless". It
was, we suspect, a new idea, a variant of
a possibility, still new at the very moment
of production, one occurring by chance
in the froth of the unconscious.



In short, the cited sentence was a
colorless green idea that had slept
furiously.