Apr 9

Text Title: Semantics

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Edited: Apr 9

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Authors: National Open University Of Nigeria

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Text size: 96 pages

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The Concept of Semantics

INTRODUCTION TO SEMANTICS

Semantics is the area of linguistics dealing with the meaning of words or

the meaning attached to words or symbols. This view places semantics

at the core of communication in language. Indeed, there is no

communication without the sharing of meaning.

 

The Definition of Semantics

Semantics as a term was first formally used by Breal in 1897. Hence, we

can deduce that Breal was the first to bring to the fore in a formally

acceptable way, the nature of meaning in language. Though the quest for

the understanding of meaning has always been of interest to scholars,

semantics was not mentioned as a term and did not come up in literature

until 1897 when it was first used by Breal. This first attempt to study

meanings by philosophers brought about the area of semantics called

philosophical semantics, which examines the relationship between

linguistic expressions and the phenomena they refer to in the external

world. Philosophical semantics focuses on examining the conditions

under which such linguistic expressions and the phenomena they refer to

are true or false. This can be traced to as far back as Plato and

Aristotle’s works.

 

However, contemporary philosophical semantics can be traced to the

works of the following authors: Rudolf Carnap (1891 - 1970), Alfred

Tarski (Born 1902) and Charles Peirce (1839 - 1914). According to

Peirce, philosophical semantics developed as Semiotics in America

while with the influence of Saussure in France, the term “semiology”

was used. However, the idea of truth-based semantics was Tarski’s

major contribution.

 

Linguistic semantics emphasises the properties of natural languages

while pure or logical semantics is the study of the meaning of

expressions using logical systems or calculi. Examining semantics in

this dimension makes it more mathematically related than linguistic in

nature. It is important to note that the discussion of semantics as a

branch of linguistics began recently and this shall be our next focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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