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Posts Tagged ‘pragmatics’

Linguistics - Semantics

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

The study of meaning is what semantics indicates and it targets the problem of understanding. It is the meaning of words, phrases or sentences.

It is used to interpret gestures, signs, symbols, facial expressions and body language. When it has to do with written language, though, semantics has to do with the structure of paragraphs, punctuation and content.

Studying semantics formally introduces the student to other subfields such as proxemics, pragmatics, and lexicology. However, semantics is better defined in its own field. Other related fields of semantic are reference, communication and semiotics. So it is more formally complex than any other model.

Due to this complexity, students that study semantics or meaning do differ from their determination of what that meaning is.

For example, if you were to say, “Cindy loves a milkshake,” the word milkshake could possibly be referencing the object itself because this is its actual exact meaning. However, it may also be referring to other metaphoric connection such as the hunger that Cindy has, which may be the implication of the speaker.
Conventionally, the view of formal semantics limits semantics to its exact meaning, and downgrades all metaphoric connections to pragmatics.
With semantics and finding the meaning of phrases, antonyms and synonyms are extremely important.
Semantics is viewed as truth conditions, which is what the world would think of what you say or do according to the knowledge that the world has about what you are saying or doing. This is determined by different cultures and languages.
It comes down to what inferences the person listening will draw from the semantics. It may also be how you deliver the sentence or word.

It is important how you apply semantics. For example, if someone should ask you, “Does every train from Washington DC to Florida make five stops along the way,” then there should be simple semantics specifics related to the question.

If the person being asked the question has knowledge of the answer, then the semantics would contain truth conditions if the answer was “yes, it has five stops along the way.” There could also be partial meaning where the train only stops twice and not five times.

Most semantics theory draw upon the assumption that a sentence is either proposed to be true or it is not true or possibly some truth is in it. Situations are what defines and identifies the truth.

Linguistics - Pragmatics

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Pragmatics is the study of how language is used naturally to communicate. It is how individuals would study language literally and nonliterally according to the meaning, which leans on the rules that draw reference from the physical or social situation in which the language is utilized. Considering these aspects, it is safe to determine that it implicates the conversation of the speaker.

An example would be a sentence such as “Mary has five daughters.” This implicates conversationally that Mary only has five daughters and no more. Another example would be a sentence such as “The man was sick, but getting well.” This would conventionally implicate a comparison between sick and getting well that is not specific.

Pragmatics is more to deal with some aspects of reasoning than it is with semantics, which is more of a conventional rule on the meaning of expressions and how they are combined to portray their meaning.

Knowing how to use language socially is pretty much what pragmatics is all about. For example, let’s say you had a family dinner and invited a coworker and your five year old child happened to be there as well.

Your friend is overweight and loved to eat. After taking a third helping of the food, your child takes notice and says, “You better not take any more of that food or you will get even fatter.” Although, it is an embarrassing social situation for you, your child does not know how to use language in a social setting appropriately and did not mean to be rude. Pragmatics would be how to communicate your feelings in a social situation fittingly.

The rules of pragmatics in communicating effectively involve:

Language use for various purposes
- Saying hello, asking for information, demanding something, promising something or requesting something.

Language change that depends on what the listener needs or what the situation requires
- How you talk to a baby compared to how you talk to an adult, how you speak in a meeting compared to how you speak in a restaurant and providing information to a listener who is not familiar with that information.

Paying attention to conversational rules
- giving someone a chance to speak in a conversation and waiting your turn, staying on point, offering an explanation if misunderstood and how you should use nonverbal and verbal gestures and facial expressions.


Such pragmatic rules will vary depending on the culture and how conversation is perceived. It is best to learn about the culture when you are studying a new language.