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Semantics And The Structure Of Sentence

1957 words (8 pages) Essay in English Language

02/05/17 English Language Reference this

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Semantics is the study of meaning. It typically focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for. Linguistic semantics is the study of meanings that humans use language to express. Other forms of semantics include the semantics of programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics.

The word “semantics” itself denotes a range of ideas, from the popular to the highly technical. It is often used in ordinary language to denote a problem of understanding that comes down to word selection or connotation. This problem of understanding has been the subject of many formal inquiries, over a long period of time, most notably in the field of formal semantics. In linguistics, it is the study of interpretation of signs or symbols as used by agents or communities within particular circumstances and contexts. Within this view, sounds, facial expressions, body language, proxemics has semantic (meaningful) content, and each has several branches of study. In written language, such things as paragraph structure and punctuation have semantic content; in other forms of language, there is other semantic content.

The formal study of semantics intersects with many other fields of inquiry, including lexicology, syntax, pragmatics, etymology and others, although semantics is a well-defined field in its own right, often with synthetic properties. In philosophy of language, semantics and reference are related fields. Further related fields include philology, communication, and semiotics. The formal study of semantics is therefore complex.

Semantics contrasts with syntax, the study of the combinatory of units of a language (without reference to their meaning), and pragmatics, the study of the relationships between the symbols of a language, their meaning, and the users of the language. In international scientific vocabulary semantics is also called semasiology.

LEXICAL & CONCEPTUAL SEMANTICS

This theory is an effort to explain properties of argument structure. The assumption behind this theory is that syntactic properties of phrases reflect the meanings of the words that head them. With this theory, linguists can better deal with the fact that subtle differences in word meaning correlate with other differences in the syntactic structure that the word appears in. The way this is gone about is by looking at the internal structure of words. These small parts that make up the internal structure of words are referred to as semantic primitives.

LEXICAL SEMANTICS

A linguistic theory that investigates word meaning. This theory understands that the meaning of a word is fully reflected by its context. Here, the meaning of a word is constituted by its contextual relations. Therefore, a distinction between degrees of participation as well as modes of participation are made. In order to accomplish this distinction any part of a sentence that bears a meaning and combines with the meanings of other constituents is labeled as a semantic constituent. Semantic constituents that can not be broken down into more elementary constituents are labeled a minimal semantic constituent.

COMPUTATIONAL SEMANTICS

Computational Semantics is focused on the processing of linguistic meaning. In order to do this concrete algorithms and architectures are described. Within this framework the algorithms and architectures are also analyzed in terms of decidability, time/space complexity, data structures which they require and communication protocols. Many companies use semantic technologies to create commercial value. The fundamental point is that you cannot create much value from content that you do not understand. Once you understand, then you can interrogate more effectively, create explicit relationships between content around topics and issues, inform contextual advertising and product placement, and build a standard method of sharing structured data between publishers.

Halliday (1987) describes some syntactic and semantic differences between the spoken and written modes of communication. Hoey (1986), Van Valin (1984) and Winter (1977) describe the syntax and semantics of clause connection, focusing largely on several English registers According to the traditional grammar, sentences consist of words, but not every string of word constitutes a sentence as we can see in the following example: Lion cage this less in dangerous is the. A possible analysis is that if we look at this example we know the meaning of the individual words, but the sequence as a whole does not make sense, so we cannot consider this structure a sentence. Thus, we can affirm that if a sequence of words is to constitute a sentence, it must he meaningful, for instance: The lion is less dangerous in this cage.

The network of relations between the words of a sentence is called its structure. There are many different aspects that influence the structure of a sentence. A very important one is word order. The different order of the words in a sentence can bring by a difference in its meaning, as in the following example: Did he say who he was?= Who did he say he was?

But a difference in word order does not always imply a difference in meaning. Sometimes it simply entails a difference in emphasis: John ran away //A way ran John .

In relation with the words, the structure of the sentence also depends on the individual meaning of the words or word-groups making up the sentence; in the following example the difference of structure is not due to word order but to the relationship between the words:

Peter was waiting for seven friends. //Peter was waiting for seven minutes.

Then this kind of Grammar deals with the concept of Ambiguous sentences and explains that the structure of sentences is not always unambiguously derivable from overt marks like word order, lexical items etc… Sometimes we come across sentences to which more than one structure can he assigned, having therefore, more than one meaning. This type of sentence receives the name of Ambiguous Sentence, as in the following examples: George likes Susan more than Joan // Visiting relatives can be boring.

Only through the context in which these sentences may appear can we know which of the two possible meanings is intended. According to the Transformational Grammar, it deals with the idea that a sentence has a syntactic structure, and it follows this term in order to develop its theory. The first important point deals with the idea that the evidence for claiming that sentences have a syntactic structure in language comes from the native speaker’s intuition about the structure of sentences in his language. These structural intuitions which native speakers have about the Syntax of their languages are two types:

1. The constituents: intuitions about how sound-sequences in sentences are structured into larger structural units.

2. Categories: intuitions about whether structural units belong to the same category or not. So, the following example is going to illustrate this fact:

To analyze the concept of sentence we can do the following analysis: words are grouped into lower constituents. For example “incredibly” modifies “intelligent”, so the sequence [incredibly intelligent] is a phrasal constituent of the sentence. Also, following the analysis, ‘this” modifies “pupil”, so the sequence [that pupil] forms a single structural unit, a constituent of the sentence. The same happens in the sequence [that teacher]. But furthermore also the sequence [to that teacher] is another constituent. To the transformational grammar, the phrases [incredibly intelligent] and [to that teacher] both modify “seem”, then the whole sequence [seem incredibly intelligent to that teacher] is also a constituent. Thus, all this information can he represented as we see before in diagrammatic form, that is a tree diagram. Each point in the tree is called a node, and each node represents a constituent. But, however, since nodes are predictable, later they were suppressed in subsequent tree-diagrams. But a tree-diagram does not provide any representation of our intuitions about which constituents are constituents of the same type. The traditional way of describing the similarities and differences between constituents is to say that they belong to categories of various types. And the same happens with the phrases. Finally, to this type of grammar, the whole sequence [that pupil must seem incredibly intelligent to that teacher] is a special type of constituent traditionally termed a clause or sentence.

3. Conventions to Be used in the analysis of a sentence, the constituents aNd its levels

Every sentence can he analysed at four distinct form levels: the word-level, the phrase-level, the clause-level and the sentence- level. And this is called the rank scale. Later, after the explanation of the constituents of a sentence we will see the different levels and how they can he analysed following the same example. Thus, a diagram as this provides a visual presentation of the categorial constituent structure of the sentence. It shows us how sentence is structured out of its constituent phrases, and how each of the phrases is structured out of its component words, and also it provides a visual presentation of the phrase structure of sentence. The type of labelled tree- diagram used here is referred to as a Phrase-marker (P-marker) because it marks the hierarchical grouping of words into phrases, and phrases into sentences.

Another method of visual display used in the linguistic literature is to make use of labelled bracketing. Within this system, we could represent the categorial status of the words in the structure mentioned before as in the following example:

[D This] [N pupil] [M must] [V seem] [Adv incredibly] [A intelligent] [P to] [D that] [N teacher]

We could use this system of labelled bracketing to represent the fact that [this pupil] and [that teacher] are noun phrases, that [to that teacher] is a prepositional phrase. That [incredibly intelligent] is an adjective phrase, that [seem incredibly intelligent to that teacher] is a verb phrase, and that [this pupil must seem incredibly intelligent to that teacher] is an “S” = clause. As follows:

[S [NP [D this] [N pupil]] [M must] [VP [V seem] [AP [ADV incredibly][A intelligent]] [PP [P to][NP [D that] [N teacher] ] ] ] ]

Then the two diagrams represented here contain the same information. Many linguists prefer tree-diagrams as a form of visual representation of syntactic structure because they are easier to read, and the reason for that is that the information they contain is less condensed. Thus, diagrams like these provide a virtually complete representation of the syntactic structure of the sentence. Also we can find partial tree-diagrams or partial labeled bracketing: for instance if we take the sentence mentioned before, we can see that it contains three major constituents:

CONCLUSION

According to grammarians, it can be said that there is a hierarchical order. That is to say, sounds are the constituents of words, words are the constituents of the phrases and phrases are the constituents of sentences or clauses. Then as a conclusion to this point, we can say that sentences are not just unstructured sequence of sounds; rather they have a hierarchical constituent structure in which sounds are grouped together into words, words into phrases, and phrases into sentences. On the other hand, it is important to point out the main features of the different categories although they have not been explained in this assignment. That is to say, when we talk about sentences, it is absolutely necessary to know the features of the categories as constituents of the own sentence. In a nutshell, it can be said that Radford’s book, Ouhalla´s work and the linguistics dictionaries are a useful guide for the student in the sense that they make easier the comprehension of grammar. It is due to the fact that they give us (as students) clear information by using simple examples.

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