Chapter 2: Approaches to Word Meaning
Chapter 2 Approaches to Word Meaning Key terms • Cognitive approaches • Componential analysis • Diagnostic features • Frame semantics • General approaches • Hyponymy • Incompatibility • Lexicon • Lexeme • Meaning postulates • Primitives • Prototype • Script • Semantic features • Semantic field • Supplementary features The previous chapter looked into the main branches of linguistics, such as formal linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, and applied linguistics. It provided the reader with a general overview of the whole discipline, and identified the place of semantics in the whole discipline. This chapter addresses the main approaches to describing the relation- ships between words and concepts. It introduces three main approaches, namely: 1. general approaches, such as semantic fields (also known as “word fields”). 12 Chapter 2 2. formal approaches, such as componential analysis and the use of meaning postulates. 3. cognitive approaches, such as frame semantics. 2.1 Semantic fields A semantic field is defined as a set of lexical items teamed up semantically as they share a common semantic property, thus forming a particular field or domain. The notion of semantic fields (also known as “word fields” or “semantic domains”) goes back to the linguist Jost Trier (1931). He argues that the meaning of any lexical item is defined by relating it to, and con- trasting its meaning with, other lexical items semantically related in a given semantic field, thus identifying the relationship among them on the one hand, and highlighting the differences among them. The basic tenets of Trier’s theory can be summarized as follows: 1. the meaning of a lexical item is dependent on...
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