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The Notion of Word-meaning

The branch of Lexicology that is devoted to the study of word-meaning is known as Semasiology or Semantics.

There have been many attempts to define the word meaning. There are two main approaches to the word-meaning.

The first approach to the word-meaning is known as Referential.The disciples of Ferdinand deSaussure (e.g., C.K. Ogden, I.A. Richards) consider meaning to be the relation among the elements of the triangle: the symbol (a linguistic element, i.e. a lexical item, a word as a combination of sounds and morphemes, a word-combination, a sentence, an utterance), the referent (an object of our experience, a fact of the outer world which is encompassed by a given symbol), the thought of reference (the concept, the permanent bond of association in our mind that mirrors the referent as a generalised entity and provides for our understanding of it).

According to this approach the relationship between names and things is viewed as a link via concepts in our mind that involves differences in the perceptions and attitudes of people speaking different languages. It is necessary to cite the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: the world in which we live is to a large extent unconsciously built on the language habits of the group. The hypothesis emphasizes the idea that a language is autonomous in determining our conception of the world. This idea is known as the concept of linguistic relativityand it is very useful in analysing the triangle mentioned above. Thus, the symbol is not identical with its meaning as tree, are different words denoting a plant; cot - a swinging bedfor a child, - male cat; seal - an animal and seal - a piece of wax. A word meaning is though closely connected with the underlying concept is not identical with it. Being the result of abstraction and generalization all concepts are almost the same for the whole of humanity in one and the same period of development but the meanings are different in different languages ( means not only a building for human habitation - house, but also fixed residence of a family or a household - home; to die - to pass away - their meanings are felt different; six can be expressed either as three plus three or one plus five). To distinguish meaning from the referent we can say that in a speech situation an apple can be denoted by the words apple, fruit, something, this as all this words may have the same referent. There are also words that have distinct meaning but do not refer to any existing thing (angel, God). So, meaning is not identical with any of the three points of the triangle. But we should remember that the relationship between the symbol and the referent is regulated by the lexical system of the given language thus, the outer world can be considered as a conceptual space or a semantic set representing everything in the world, whereas lexical sets present words as combinations of sounds and morphemes being specific in a given language.

The relationship between language and reality is treated differently in different linguistic schools.



Structural linguistics(J.Trier, U. Weinreich, J.J. Katz & J.A.Fodor etc.) focuses on the structural intalinguistic data thus postulating the separateness and autonomy of the language and reality.

Cognitive linguistics maintains the idea that a word is not semantically independent but it acquires its meaning in combination with other words that can be understood only against its contextual background. That is why the meaning of a linguistic sign may be studied only through its relation to other linguistic units and not through its relation either to concept or referent (move and movement have different meanings as they function in speech differently). It is the so-called Functional Approach.

So in linguistic investigation we must examine the meaning according to the Functional Approach first (in the context), then according to the Referential Approachtrying to formulate the meaning.

In this country the definition of word-meaning given by various authors, though different in detail, agree in the basic principle. They point out that meaning is a certain reflection in our mind of an object in extra-linguistic reality which is the fact of a language because of its constant association with the definite linguistic expression.


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1428


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