Semasiology: Linguistics and Grammatical Meaning

Topics: Linguistics, Semantics, Semiotics Pages: 7 (2425 words) Published: February 12, 2013
By definition Lexicology deals with words, word-forming morphemes (derivational affixes) and word-groups or phrases. All these linguistic units may be said to have meaning of some kind: they are all significant and therefore must be investigated both as to form and meaning. The branch of lexicology that is devoted to the study of meaning is known as Semasiology. Semasiology from Greek word sēmasia (“signification”) + logos (“account”).The branch of lexicology which is so called semantics  semiotics,  semology,  the philosophical and scientific study of meaning. It is difficult to formulate a distinct definition for each of these terms because their use largely overlaps in the literature despite individual preferences. Semantics is a relatively new field of study, and its originators, often working independently of one another, felt the need to coin a new name for the new discipline; hence the variety of terms denoting the same subject. The word semantics has ultimately prevailed as a name for the doctrine of meaning, in particular, of linguistic meaning. Semiotics is still used, however, to denote a broader field: the study of sign- using behaviour in general. Meaning is one of the most controversial terms in the theory of language. At first sight the understanding of this term seems to present no difficulty at all — it is freely used in teaching, interpreting and translation. The scientific definition of meaning however just as the definition of some other basic linguistic terms, such as word. sentence, etc., has been the issue of interminable discussions. Since there is no universally accepted definition of meaning 4 we shall confine ourselves to a brief survey of the problem as it is viewed in modern linguistics both in our country and elsewhere.


It is more or less universally recognised that word-meaning is not homogeneous but is made up of various components the combination and the interrelation of which determine to a great extent the inner facet of the word. These components are usually described as types of meaning. The two main types of meaning that are readily observed are the grammatical and the lexical meanings to be found in words and word-forms.

Grammatical meaning We notice, e.g., that word-forms, such as girls, winters, tables, etc. though denoting widely different objects of reality have something in common. This common element is the grammatical meaning of plurality which can be found in all of them. Thus grammatical meaning may be defined ,as the component of meaning recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words, as, e.g., the tense meaning in the word-forms of verbs (asked, thought, walked, etc.) or the case meaning in the word-forms of various nouns (girl’s, boy’s, night’s, etc.). In a broad sense it may be argued that linguists who make a distinction between lexical and grammatical meaning are, in fact, making a distinction between the functional (linguistic) meaning which operates at various levels as the interrelation of various linguistic units and referential (conceptual) meaning as the interrelation of linguistic units and referents (or concepts). In modern linguistic science it is commonly held that some elements of grammatical meaning can be identified by the position of the linguistic unit in relation to other linguistic units, i.e. by its distribution. Word-forms speaks, reads, writes have one and the same grammatical meaning as they can all be found in identical distribution, e.g. only after the pronouns he, she, it and before adverbs like well, badly, to-day, etc. It follows that a certain component of the meaning of a word is described when you identify it as a part of speech, since different parts of speech are distributionally different (cf. my work and I work). Comparing word-forms of one and the same word we observe that besides...
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