Student Exercises

Exercise 14 (p.228) on The Jabberwocky

Semantics: the study of the linguistic meaning of morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences

  • lexical semantics: concerned with the meanings of words
  • phrasal or sentential semantics: concerned with larger syntactic units
  • There are more types which the text doesn’t cover

Pragmatics: The interpretation of linguistic meaning in context. (according to the text; my own definition is that it is the study of how we do things with language. The Wiki definitions are:

  • The study of language as it is used in a social context, including its effect on the interlocutors.
  • The branch of semiotics that deals with the relationship between signs, especially words and other elements of language, and their users.

Semantic Properties: pieces of information associated with a word

  • semantic properties are part of the meaning of all nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some function words
  • represented through a notation with positive or negative semantic features (mare = +female, -human, -young, +equine)
  • language teaching example: count/noncount nouns (177) can only occur with a particular quantifier: count nouns with many, noncount (mass) nouns with much.
  • nouns in some languages are associated with specific classifiers-nyms
    (a bound morpheme, by the way!)
  • Homonyms: words that are pronounced the same, may or may not be spelled the same and have different meanings. May lead to ambiguity
  • A word with multiple meanings that are related historically is polysemous
  • heteronyms: words are spelled the same but pronounced differently
  • homographs: words that are spelled the same but have different meanings (dove- the bird & dove – past of dive)
  • synonyms;  words that have the same or nearly the same meaning
    • paraphrases: sentences which use synonyms in identical constructions
    • creates lexical paraphrase
      • antonyms: words that are opposite
        • share all but one semantic property
        • are gradable:  meaning is related to the object they modify
        • marked/unmarked members of pairs of gradable antonyms: mountain & high, not low
        • relational opposites: employer/employee
        • formed with prefixes
        • hyponyms: a word that represents the relationship between general terms and specific instances of a class; color has the hyponym red
        • metonym: substitutes for the object that is meant, the name of an attribute or concept associated with that object; i.e., Hollywood for the film industry, Washington for the US government
        • retronyns:  redundant words at an earlier time; whole milk, conventional warfare, acoustic guitar.

        (see fun-with -words)

        See Student exercises for more fun

        Proper names
        Shortcuts for a specific object or entity

        • have characteristic of being definite (this means in English they don’t need a determiner such as the to indicate definite – exceot in particular instances (there are always these pesky exceptions!)
        • can’t be pluralized (Or can they? “There are two ‘Johns’ in our class”)

        Phrase and Sentence Meaning

    Principle of Compositionality: meaning of a phrase is composed of meaning of words and how they are combined structurally

    Visiting relatives can be boring

    Phrasal Meaning

    Noun-Centered Meaning

        • reference: an object is pointed to through a noun phrase
        • referent: the object pointed to through a noun phrase
        • coreferential: phrases that point to the same object – may not mean the sentences have the same meaning
        • sense: additional meaning

    Verb-Centered Meaning

        • agent, theme, and goal: thematic roles of the verb
        • Useful chart ( 192-193)
        • represented by case in some languages

    Sentential Meaning

        • truth conditions: the conditions under which the sentence is true
        • paraphrases: sentences which have the same truth conditions
        • entailment: truth of one sentence entails (implies) the truth of another
        • contradiction: negative entailment
        • eventives/statives:  syntactic consequences result from this characteristic of sentences

    Pronouns and Coreferentiality

        • reflexive pronouns: syntax reflects identical referents in antecedents

    Meanings that are Veiled or Nonexistent

        • anomaly: syntactically correct expressions which are not interpretable semantically
        • metaphor:  nonliteral or indirect meaning (note George Lakoff’s book, and article on Metaphors of Terror
        • idioms: meaning is not related to meanings of parts of the phrase (a language teacher’s dream (if what you want is job security) or nightmare (if you are asked to explain them a lot))


    Interpretation of linguistic meaning in context.

        • linguistic context
        • situational context, or knowledge of the world

    Discourse Analysis

        • how speakers combine sentences into broader speech units
        • examines style, appropriateness, cohesiveness, etc.

    Situational Context

        • Grice’s cooperative principle
        • Conversational maxims

    Speech Acts

      • What we get done with language
      • Performatives
      • illocutionary force
      • presuppositions
      • implication
      • Deixis

CARLA’s speech act site:


The site where you can download software for drawing syntactic trees is: