Method of Semantic Differential

All the methods of semantic analysis discussed above are aimed mainly or exclusively at the investigation of the denotational component of the lexical meaning.

The analysis of the differences of the connotational meaning is very hard since the nuances are often slight, difficult to grasp and do not yield themselves to objective investigation and verification.

An attempt to establish and display these differences was developed by a group of American psycholinguists. They set up a technique known as the semantic differential by means of which, as they claim, meaning can be measured. It is perfectly clear, however, that what semantic differential measures is not word-meaning in any of accepted senses of the term but the connotational component of meaning or to be more exact the emotive charge.

Their technique requires the subjects to judge a series of concepts with respect to a set of bipolar (antonymic) adjective scales. For example, a concept like horseis to be rated as to the degree to which it is good or bad, fast or slow, strong or weak, etc.

The meaning of the seven divisions is, taking as an example the first of the scales represented above, from left to right: extremely good, quite good, slightly good, neither good nor bad (or equally good and bad) slightly bad, quite bad, extremely bad.

In the diagram above horseis described as neither good nor bad, extremely fast, quite strong, slightly hard, equally happy and sad.

The responses of the subjects produce a semantic profile representing the emotive charge of the word.

The degree of agreement between the answers is treated as a significant and reliable factor.

It may be argued that the data with which they deal in these investigations are essentially subjective. Objectivity, however, concerns the role of the observer. In other words, each person records his own, entirely subjective reactions, but by the time the analysis has been completed the result will represent a kind of semantic average reached by purely objective statistical methods.



1. Read and analyze the following extract on the basis of the above mentioned methods of linguistic analysis:

A barge is a flat-decked and usually flat-bottomed vessel. An empty barge rides high in the water, showing its draft marks, or waterline marks, on its side. As it is filled, the barge rides deeper and deeper in the water, and tonnage is estimated by reading the marks on the hull. Barges have no power to move on their own. They depend on tugboats, towboats, and water currents to move.

2. Take the English text of oil and gas field and analyze it according to the main principles of linguistic analysis.




By definition Lexicology deals with words, word-forming morphemes (derivational affixes) and word-groups or phrases. All these linguistic units may be said to have meaning of some kind: they are all significant and therefore must be investigated both as to form and meaning. The branch of lexicology that is devoted to the study of meaning is known as Semasiology.

Semasiology is coming to the fore as the central problem of linguistic investigation of all levels of language structure.

Words, however, play such a crucial part in the structure of language that when we speak of semasiology without any qualification, we usually refer to the study of word-meaning proper, although it is in fact very common to explore the semantics of other elements, such as suffixes, prefixes, etc.

Meaning is one of the most controversial terms in the theory of language. The scientific definition of meaning however just as the definition of some other basic linguistic terms, such as word, sentence, etc., has been the issue of interminable discussions. Since there is no universally accepted definition of meaning we shall confine ourselves to a brief survey of the problem as it is viewed in modern linguistics both in our country and elsewhere.


Referential Approach

There are broadly speaking two schools to Meaning of thought in present-day linguistics representing the main lines of contemporary thinking on the problem: the referential approach, which seeks to formulate the essence of meaning by establishing the interdependence between words and the things or concepts they denote, and the functional approach, which studies the functions of a word in speech and is less concerned with what meaning is than with how it works.

All major works on semantic theory have so far been based on referential concepts of meaning. The essential feature of this approach is that it distinguishes between the three components closely connected with meaning: the sound-form of the linguistic sign, the concept underlying this sound-form, and the actual referent, i.e. that part or that aspect of reality to which the linguistic sign refers. The best known referential model of meaning is the so-called basic triangle which, with some variations, underlies the semantic systems of all the adherents of this school of thought. In a simplified form the triangle may be represented as shown below:

As can be seen from the diagram the sound-form of the linguistic sign, e.g. [dʌv], is connected with our concept of the bird which it denotes and through it with the referent, i.e. the actual bird. The common feature of any referential approach is the implication that meaning is in some form or other connected with the referent.

Let us now examine the place of meaning in this model. It is easily observed that the sound-form of the word is not identical with its meaning, e.g. [dʌv] is the sound-form used to denote a peal-grey bird. There is no inherent connection, however, between this particular sound-cluster and the meaning of the word dove.The connection is conventional and arbitrary. This can be easily proved by comparing the sound-forms of different languages conveying one and the same meaning, e.g. English [dʌv], Russian [golub'], German [taube] and so on. It can also be proved by comparing almost identical sound-forms that possess different meaning in different languages. The sound-cluster [kot], e.g. in the English language means a small, usually swinging bed for a child, but in the Russian language essentially the same sound-cluster possesses the meaning male cat. For more convincing evidence of the conventional and arbitrary nature of the connection between sound-form and meaning all we have to do is to point to the homonyms. The word seal[si:l], e.g., means a piece of wax, lead, etc. stamped with a design; its homonym seal[si:l] possessing the same sound-form denotes a sea animal.

Besides, if meaning were inherently connected with the sound-form of a linguistic unit, it would follow that a change in sound-form would necessitate a change of meaning. We know, however, that even considerable changes in the sound-form of a word in the course of its historical development do not necessarily affect its meaning. The sound-form of the OE. word lufian [luvian] has undergone great changes, and has been transformed into love[lʌv], yet the meaning hold dear, bear love, etc. has remained essentially unchanged.

When we examine a word we see that its meaning though closely connected with the underlying concept or concepts is not identical with them. To begin with, concept is a category of human cognition. Concept is the thought of the object that singles out its essential features. Our concepts abstract and reflect the most common and typical features of the different objects and phenomena of the world. Being the result of abstraction and generalisation all concepts are thus intrinsically almost the same for the whole of humanity in one and the same period of its historical development. The meanings of words however are different in different languages. That is to say, words expressing identical concepts may have different meanings and different semantic structures in different languages. The concept of a building for human habitation is expressed in English by the word house,in Russian by the word , but the meaning of the English word is not identical with that of the Russian as housedoes not possess the meaning of fixed residence of family or household which is one of the meanings of the Russian word ; it is expressed by another English polysemantic word, namely homewhich possesses a number of other meanings not to be found in the Russian word .

The difference between meaning and concept can also be observed by comparing synonymous words and word-groups expressing essentially the same concepts but possessing linguistic meaning which is felt as different in each of the units under consideration, e.g. big, large; to, die, to pass away, to kick the bucket, to join the majority; child, baby, babe, infant.

To distinguish meaning from the referent, i.e. from the thing denoted by the linguistic sign is of the utmost importance, and at first sight does not seem to present difficulties. To begin with, meaning is linguistic whereas the denoted object or the referent is beyond the scope of language. We can denote one and the same object by more than one word of a different meaning. For instance, in a speech situation an apple can be denoted by thewords apple, fruit, something, this,etc. as all of these words may have the same referent. Meaning cannot be equated with the actual properties of the referent, e.g. the meaning of the word watercannot be regarded as identical with its chemical formula H2O as watermeans essentially the same to all English speakers including those who have no idea of its chemical composition. Last but not least there are words that have distinct meaning but do not refer to any existing thing, e.g. angelor phoenix.Such words have meaning which is understood by the speaker-hearer, but the objects they denote do not exist.

Thus, meaning is not to be identified with any of the three points of the triangle.

© 2013 wikipage.com.ua - wikipage.com.ua |