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What is Semantic: Brief Explanation


Semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences. It focuses on the conventional meaning conveyed by the use of words and sentences in language, not on what a spaeker might want the words to mean in a particular occasion. It means that semantics only deals with objective and general meaning rather than subjective and local meaning.

Linguists and Philosophers invent three ways in defining meaning. First, by defining the essence of words or lexicon meaning, second, by defining the essence of the meaning of sentence, and third, by explaining communication process. Therefore based on the above ways of defining meaning,  the study of semantics is broken down into are three levels, in which they have different and varied theories to analyze each levels, those are:
  • Lexical semantic 
  • Sentential semantic, and
  • Speech act semantic
Lexical semantic is semantic which tries to explain the meaning of words or lexicon, it means that the focus of this level is only in word and lexicon. Before I go to the kinds of theories in analyzing this level. I want to ask you something. What is the different between word and lexicon anyway? To differentiate those two terms have a look these illustration.

1.  What is the meaning of "kill"?
2. You kill the deer with a gun.

Take a close attention to the word "kill" on those two sentences, the first "kill" refers to word and the second "kill" refers to lexicon. So can you guess what is word and lexicon? Yes you're right, word refers to phonological construct which carries meaning in which it doesn't have any context. Meanwhile, lexicon refers to word which is context sensitive, or word that have context is called lexicon. Therefore you can safely say that every lexicon is word but word is not necessarily lexicon.

There are generally four kinds of theories in this level, those are:
Sentential semantic, the higher level of lexical semantic, is semantic which tries to explain the meaning of sentence. Sentence refers to a group of words which contain a topic and a comment. e.g. "John killed a deer" means that John caused a deer to die. There are three kinds of theories used to analyze this level, those are:
Speech act semantic is semantic which tries to explain the meaning of utterances in language used. There are eight features of language in use, those are:
  • Appropriacy
  • Non-literal or indirect
  • Inference
  • Indeterminacy
  • Context
  • Relevance
  • Reflexivity
  • Misfire
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