Posted: Mar 21, 2014 10:45 am
by Agrippina
nunnington wrote:
seeker wrote:
nunnington wrote:seeker
There isn't a simple answer to your questions. I used to teach semantics, and most courses are fairly complex, as there are so many aspects of it, and so many different theories of meaning and pragmatics, and also, of course, there are big overlaps with philosophy. Thus, discussions of reference might be avoided in some linguistics courses, which didn't want to become too philosophical.
One common approach is to separate word meaning, sentence meaning, and pragmatics, that is meaning in context (utterances). But there is still a lot of choice here - for example, word meaning might cover structuralist theories, such as semantic fields, and also the differences between sense and reference.
Sentence (and utterance) meaning becomes very complex - you might cover presuppositions, implicature, quantifiers, deixis, negation, metaphor, and so on. Also, the way meanings are created in whole texts, a very complex area.
Pragmatics might cover intentions, co-operation, speech acts, and the use of speech and language in different situations.
I'm not sure which text-books are used today, as I am well out of it, but without doubt there will be a number which will be worth reading.

Thanks, your answers were helpful. What do you think about the questions that I've written in the following paragraph?
"If a sentence talks about an abstraction like "nothingness", do linguists say that the sentence has a reference? If a word is dependent on others in its ordinary usage (e.g., "and", "to", "until", "if"), do linguists say that it has a concept and a meaning by itself, or that it only acquires a concept and a meaning when it's combined with other words? Do linguists agree or disagree (and to which extent) in their answers to these questions?"

You might as well ask how long is a piece of string. I've already said that many linguists would avoid the issue of reference, or would discuss it briefly, as it is seen as a philosophical topic. I've never met anyone in linguistics who would say that 'and' has a concept; the other question about a word in isolation as opposed to in combination, you will probably get different answers, but words in isolation are actually not all that interesting - show me a context. One solution which works quite well, is to study how 'and' is used. 'Meaning is use in context'.

Which is what I was asking for. Just asking for a technical definition without the context, means nothing.