Semantics Definition

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Semantic meaning is the branch of philosophical and scientific study. Its origin arises from the Greek word Semaine, which means” to mean” or “to signify”. In simple words, semantics means studying the meaning of any word or sentence. The two aspects covered under semantics are logical and analytical. The rational element of Semantics will cover the purpose of a word, sentence or text.

In contrast, the analytical part will cover the analysis of word, senses and their significance between them. To better have Semantic knowledge, let’s look at the word “drop”- It can signify a” raindrop” or “water drop”. In another sense, it can mean something has fallen, or maybe prices have fallen for a product. The same word can signify different meanings in the conversation or hold other significance for different individuals.

Define Semantics: Where does Semantics Originate?

 The semantics was viewed first in the linguistic light in the 19th century. Although, it gained significant importance when Gottlob Frege, a mathematician and the British philosopher Bertrand Russell studied it in detail regarding human reasoning. They stated that every word has a different meaning for different people due to its experiential and emotional backgrounds. The effect on mathematical logic and mathematical thinking changed the focus on Semantics.

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Contemporary Theories of Semantics

Semantics knowledge is vast and has many theories in the light of educational philosophy, behavioural pattern, scientific approach, and the conceptual role in which it has been studied and observed over time.

Ideational Semantics

The British philosopher John Locke studied Semantics in the light of its linguistic aspect. He stated that words are used to understand and convey expressions or ideas. For any meaningful conversation, the listener should interpret the speaker’s statement and its implications in the speaker’s mind. But this theory has its limitations as the meaning in the speaker’s sense can be studied in a different light than the listener. Therefore, the generality of the purpose was ignored in this theory. For example, If a person mentions that a cloudy day, it can hold a different meaning. Maybe the speaker is referring to the sky, and the listener could interpret it as rain. So the basic conversation is changed between them.

Behaviourist Semantics 

B.F.Skinner, an American psychologist, studied the scientific light’s linguistic meaning to make it more general. The behaviouristic pattern of a human in a particular situation. Generalised into three categories

  • The reason for the behaviour.

  •  To see the response to that behaviour outcome.

  • A combination of both situations.

The limitation of this theory is the compositionality of the sentence and its words.

Referential Semantics

John Stuart Mill studied referential semantics as overcoming the limitation of a word and its worldly relation. He stated that the expression refers to its actual original meaning and nothing else. The drawback in this study is that some specific terms are not particular or have two different meanings. Therefore, proper names are meaningless, and some common nouns do not have definite descriptions.

Possible - Word Semantics and the Meaning

This approach to possible-word semantics is a complete way the world is or could have been. The words are used as a device in logic, philosophy and linguistics to provide a modal logic. A term’s meaning is related to what it applies in the actual world and what it would apply to different possible worlds. The limitation of this study is that it leaves out the meaningful expressions of the words.

Fregean Semantics and the Meaning

This study of Semantics refers to two elements: a referent and the sense. Gottlob Frege explains that the truth value is decided not by reference but by the meaning in some sentences. How the connection is made determines the purpose of that word.

Verificationist Semantics and the Meaning

A discussion group of Vienna Circle studied Semantics in this light that sentence is based on the experiences on which it can be verified.  Those sentences are meaningless which cannot be verified. The basic principle on which it works on links from previous experiences. 

Describe Semantic Differential?

The semantic differential is the rating scale designed to measure the connotative meaning of objects, events and concepts. It is used to understand the attitude towards the object, event or concept.

What is Semantic Satiation?

Semantic satiation is a psychological procedure in which repetition causes a word to lose its meanings for the listener.

Difference between Semantics and Pragmatics

Pragmatics is the study of the context. It mainly is the study of the context and its influence over the understanding of the language. In contrast, Semantics is the study of the meaning between linguistic ideas and their purposes.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Distinguish between Semantics and Semiotics?

Semantics and Semiotics terms originate from the same place but have different meanings. They both observe the pattern of a linguist methodology of communication. We can genuinely say that it’s a part of Semiotics study. But there are two significant differences in Semantics and Semiotics. Firstly, semantics study the meaning of a word or a sentence and its different implications. At the same time, Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use of interpretation. The types of Semantics are conceptual and associative, while Semiotics covers five fields linguistic, visual, audio, gestural and spatial. The primary example of Semiotics are emojis, traffic signs and emoticons and logos of brands. It is a broader field than Semantics.

Q2. What does it Mean When Someone says Semantics?

Generally speaking, if a person says semantics, they refer to the understanding of the person of any word according to their thinking. The words in the sentence are picked apart to understand their meaning and draw a different conclusion. But the purpose of the sentence is the same. People can interpret words differently and draw different conclusions from them. For example, In our daily routine, a father directs the son to water the plants. Now, the son can take it in general to water the plants during the day, but the father could be asking him to water the plants at that time. The interpretation of the sentence is different for both of them, but the meaning was the same.