Sense relations - identity

Hausarbeit, 2011

10 Seiten


Index of contents

1. “Sense relations” in general

2. “Sense relations: identity” in particular
2.1. “Sense relations: identity” in research literature
2.2. Types of sense relations which express identity

3. Requirements, which need to be fulfilled when speaking of “sense relations: identity”


1. “Sense relations“ in general

One possible definition of sense relations is: “Any relation between lexical units within the semantic system of a language”, (Matthews 1997:337). This means that there has to be a relation in meaning between lexical units of a language. It does not matter if this relation expresses some kind of identity or non-identity. One could also define sense relations as “a paradigmatic relation between words or predicates”. “Paradigmatic relations are those into which a linguistic unit enters through being contrasted or substitutable, in particular environment, with other similar units”, (Palmer 1981:67). In other words, a paradigmatic relation is a relation where an individual lexical unit can be replaced by another.

A less scientific approach to sense relations is made by David Crystal: “We have a sense relation when we feel that lexemes relate to each other in meaning”, (Crystal 2003: 164). The most common relations in meaning between lexical units are S ynonymy and A ntonymy . Whereas the latter one belongs to a group of sense relations which express a non-identity, the first one is the most known type of identity-expressing sense relations. Together with Hyponymy , Crystal calls them the “chief types of lexical sense relations”. But in the field of semantics, there are far more possibilities of expressing a relation in sense. For example, there are Paraphrase, Homonymy, member-collection and portion-mass relationships, which all express a special kind of identity. In this term paper, the focus lies on sense relations expressing a form of identity, sameness or identical traits.

2. “Sense relations: identity” in particular

2.1. “Sense relations: identity” in research literature

In research literature, one will find a score of different technical terms for what is called sense relations in this term paper, but still it is hard to find a scientific term, which is only used for identity-expressing sense relations . One can be found in Yoshio Ueno's work for the Center for English Language Education in Science and Engineering, where he distinguishes between two classes of paradigmatic relations, those of identity and inclusion and those of opposition and exclusion (Ueno).

Exactly the term used in this work is also used by Frank Robert Palmer (Palmer 1997:83). He there calls them “a semi-logical kind” of relations betweens words.

Another technical term for sense relations is lexical relations as in 'An Introduction to Language' (Fromkin, Rodman, Hyams 2011: 156). Crystal refers to sense relations when he uses the term 3 semantic relation, and he defines these relations as “paradigmatic relationships of synonymy, antonymy, etc., and the syntagmatic relationships of collocation”, (Crystal 2003: 414).

2.2. Types of sense relations which express identity

The most important type of an identity-expressing sense relation is Synonymy. Synonymy is “the relation between two lexical units with a shared meaning”, (Matthews 1997:367). Thus, a synonym of a word or a reading of a word can replace it. But can a word be replaced by any of it's synonyms? The answer is no because there is a distinction between two perspectives of Synonymy. There is an Absolute synonymy in contrast to a Partial or Near synonymy. Absolute synonyms are completely identical in meaning, which means that they can be substituted for each other in both directions (Geeraerts 2010:84) Therefore, absolute synonyms have to have exactly the same meaning, e.g. jail and prison or autumn and fall . Often, words do bear the same meaning but are still used in different contexts, e.g. cab and taxi or liberty and freedom. It becomes obvious that the national background plays an important role when it comes to S ynonymy , as well as the connotation of a speaker. For example, liberty today has a more idealistic trait as in Statue of Liberty , whereas freedom is most of the time associated with not being held imprisoned against your will or being able to express your opinion without being punished for it. Cab and taxi only differ in the national background. The one is used by American English speakers, the other by British English speakers. Another point is the stylistic or emotive meaning of an expression. Whore and prostitute both mean a human that sells sex for money but whore has a more negative character with respect to meaning. The stylistic use of words is often associated with a specialized language: abdomen, belly and stomach have the same meaning, but the first term is of a medical disposition (Geeraerts 2010:84). In contrast to absolute synonyms, partial or near synonyms do not have the exact same meaning. The substitution of those often does not work in both directions. Partial synonyms have a slight difference in meaning but are still of a synonymous character, e.g. to laugh and to chuckle or body and corpse . In the sentence The body was found you can exchange one word and the meaning remains the same: The corpse was found. Both sentences want to say that the mortal remains of a dead person have been found. When you try to substitute body with corpse in another sentence, this does not work in most cases: He showed his body and muscles vs. He showed his corpse and muscles. In this case, body and corpse are partial synonyms. In the case of the synonyms pretty and handsome , one would only use pretty to describe a female person and handsome to describe a male person. This refers to what Leech says about 'collocative meaning'. Some words do have the same conceptual meaning - which will be discussed later on - but are used in different environments. Pretty and handsome both mean 'good looking' but they co-occur with a different range of nouns (Leech 1981:17). Furtheron, there is another type of synonymy which is called Propositional synonymy which relies on an emotive significance. For example, you can use different ways of saying that two persons had sex for the first time: This was the first time they had intercourse ; This was the first time they made love ; This was the first time they fucked . You use the different phrases when talking to different people. A boy would rather use had intercourse when talking to his mother than telling her that they fucked . Of course, you have to differentiate between social classes, as well. Probably in some families fucked would rather be used than had intercourse or made love. This is also affected by Leech's 'social meaning'. Leech declares that meaning and language can vary according to dialect, time, province, status, modality and singularity (Leech 1981:14). Leech defines social meaning as “that which a piece of language conveys about the social circumstances of its use”. As there are just rare examples of words that have the same social meaning and conceptual meaning some linguists tend to say that 'true syonyms do not exist' (Leech 1981:14).


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Sense relations - identity
Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
399 KB
Semantics, Synonyme, synonymy, antonymy, Sprachwissenschaften, Linguistik, Linguistics, Englisch
Arbeit zitieren
Hendrik Geisler (Autor:in), 2011, Sense relations - identity, München, GRIN Verlag,


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