Semantics is like the meaning behind the words we use. It focuses on understanding how words, phrases, and sentences convey meaning and how context influences interpretation. Just as painters use colors to evoke emotions, language uses words to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
Word meaning refers to the specific sense or definition of a word. Words can have multiple meanings, and the meaning can change based on the context in which they are used.
Examples of Word Meaning:
- “Bank” can mean a financial institution or the side of a river.
- “Book” can mean a physical object with pages or the act of making a reservation.
Word Sense Relations:
Semantics also explores the relationships between words and how they are related in meaning. Some common word sense relations include synonym, antonym, hyponym, and hypernym.
Words that have similar meanings.
For example, “happy” and “joyful” are synonyms.
Words that have opposite meanings.
For example, “hot” and “cold” are antonyms.
Words that are more specific in meaning and are part of a broader category.
For example, “rose” is a hyponym of the hypernym “flower.”
Words that are more general in meaning and encompass specific words.
For example, “fruit” is a hypernym of the hyponyms “apple” and “orange.”
Pragmatics and Context:
Semantics is closely related to pragmatics, which deals with how context influences the interpretation of language. The meaning of a sentence can change based on the situation, speaker, and listener’s knowledge.
Example of Contextual Influence:
The sentence “Can you pass the salt?” might be a polite request during a meal, but it can be a question about physical ability if someone is lifting a heavy salt bag.