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Basics The notions of word and word meaning are problematic to pin down, and this is reflected in the difficulties one encounters in defining the basic terminology of lexical semantics. Let us then elucidate the notion of word in a little more detail, and specify what key questions will guide our discussion of word meaning in the rest of the entry.
On one side, we have linguistic definitions, which attempt to characterize the notion of word by illustrating the explanatory role words play or Economical factors affecting harley davidson expected to play in the context of a formal grammar.
For example, words are the primary locus of stress and tone assignment, the basic domain of morphological conditions on affixation, clitization, compounding, and the theme of phonological and morphological processes of assimilation, vowel shift, metathesis, and reduplication Bromberger On the other side, we have metaphysical definitions, which attempt to elucidate the notion of word by describing the metaphysical type of words.
For the purposes of this entry, we can proceed as follows. Every natural language has a lexicon organized into lexical entries, which contain information about lexemes. These are the smallest linguistic expressions that are conventionally associated with a non-compositional meaning and can be uttered in isolation to convey semantic content.
Lexemes relate to words just like phonemes relate to phones in phonological theory. Just as phonemes are abstract representations of sets of phones each defining one way the phoneme can be instantiated in speechlexemes can be defined as abstract representations of sets of words each defining one way the lexeme can be instantiated in sentences.
To wrap everything into a single formula, we can say that the lexical entries listed in a lexicon set the parameters defining the instantiation potential of lexemes as words in utterances and inscriptions Murphy In what follows, we shall rely on an intuitive notion of word.
The first type of theory, that we can label a semantic theory of word meaning, is interested in clarifying what meaning-determining information is encoded by the lexical items of a natural language. The second type of theory, that we can label a foundational theory of word meaning, is interested in singling out the facts whereby lexical expressions come to have the semantic properties they have for their users.
Obviously, the endorsement of a given semantic theory is bound to place important constraints on the claims one might propose about the foundational attributes of word meaning, and vice versa. Semantic and foundational concerns are often interdependent, and it is difficult to find theories of word meaning which are either purely semantic or purely foundational.
For example, Ludlow establishes a strong correlation between the underdetermination of lexical concepts a semantic matter and the processes of linguistic entrenchment whereby discourse partners converge on the assignation of shared meanings to lexical expressions a foundational matter.
However, semantic and foundational theories remain in principle different and designed to answer partly non-overlapping sets of questions. Our focus will be on semantic theories of word meaning, i. However, we will engage in foundational considerations whenever necessary to clarify how a given theoretical framework addresses issues in the domain of a semantic theory.
Historical Background The study of word meaning acquired the status of a mature academic enterprise in the 19th century, with the birth of historical-philological semantics Section 2. Yet, matters related to word meaning had been the subject of much debate in earlier times.
Word meaning constituted a prominent topic of inquiry in three classical traditions: The task of speculative etymology is to break down the surface features of word forms and recover the descriptive often phonoiconic rationale that motivated their genesis.
More in MalkielFumaroliand Del Bello The primary aim of the rhetorical tradition was the study of figures of speech. Some of these affect structural variables such as the linear order of the words occurring in a sentence e.
Although originated for stylistic and literary purposes, the identification of regular patterns in the figurative use of words initiated by classical rhetoric provided a first organized framework to investigate the semantic flexibility of words, and stimulated an interest in our ability to use lexical expressions beyond the boundaries of their literal meaning.
More in KennedyHerrickand Toye Finally, lexicography and the practice of writing dictionaries played an important role in systematizing the descriptive data on which later inquiry would rely to illuminate the relationship between words and their meaning.
But lexicography certainly had an impact on the development of modern theories of word meaning. The practice of separating dictionary entries via lemmatization and defining them through a combination of semantically simpler elements provided a stylistic and methodological paradigm for much subsequent research on lexical phenomena, such as decompositional theories of word meaning.
In particular, it absorbed from speculative etymology an interest in the conceptual decomposition of word meaning, it acquired from rhetoric a toolkit for the classification of lexical phenomena, and it assimilated from lexicography and textual philology a basis of descriptive data for lexical analysis Geeraerts On the methodological side, the key features of the approach to word meaning introduced by historical-philological semantics can be summarized as follows.
First, it had a diachronic and contextualist orientation: Second, it considered word meaning a psychological phenomenon: Interestingly, while the rhetorical tradition had looked at tropes as devices whose investigation was motivated by stylistic concerns, historical-philological semantics regarded the psychological mechanisms underlying the production and the comprehension of figures of speech as part of the ordinary life of languages, and as engines of the evolution of all aspects of lexical systems Nerlich Manufacturing AUTOMATION is Canada's leading publication covering the application of advanced systems, machine design and technology across manufacturing industries.
Word meaning has played a somewhat marginal role in early contemporary philosophy of language, which was primarily concerned with the structural features of sentences and showed less interest in the format of lexical representations and in the nature of the word-level input to compositional processes.
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