7 Pages, Grade: B
In order to deal with the question I would like to support Kess who wrote that it is rather an “enormous question” with which philosophers have dealt with reaching back to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (1992: 196). For the purpose of our undergraduate studies in semantics I found out that it could be necessary to specify the question with regard to linguistics. Therefore the subheading to this assignment could be: the different linguistic approaches to account for meaning in language. As elaborated by Cruse the study of meaning is relevant to many different academic disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, neurology, semiotics and linguistics (2004: 10). In terms of semantics, which are the study of meaning in human language -and therefore a division of linguistics and language studies- meaning plays a rather vital role. In order to examine the question of meaning linguists have developed several different approaches and have divided the question in sub questions. The different approaches result from different analysises how meaning could be determined in terms of word meaning, sentence meaning and utterance meaning. A matter that influences these questions is how we conceive the world. In order to answer that question it seems to be necessary to analyse the underlying devices of how meaning or information is stored and represented in the mental brain.
The question of how meaning is represented in the human brain is of rather concern to psycholinguists. Linguists have developed an approach that explains the representations of meaning in concepts. This conceptual approach has the advantage that concepts do not directly refer to real world objects and therefore can be taken to explain the meaning of concrete objects as well as abstract matter. Another notion is that meaning is stored as images in the brain. Theses are just the basic notions from several more.
Some basic notion in analysing meaning has to do with analysing the meaning of words. As words do not have just one meaning and therefore, although that they sometimes do refer to single objects in the real world, their meaning shifts and are also transferable to abstract and not concrete matters. Words are interrelated with other meanings of words and concepts. A way to illustrate these interrelations is to compare meanings with other meanings. These relations are among other things illustrated in aspects of similarity or opposition. Synonymy and antonymy are such notions that help to demonstrate certain meaning relations.
To define the whole range of meaning a word can have one has also take into account the denotation of words and the connotation of words. One can say that in a way connotation derives from denotation, as without denotation there would not be connotation. According to Löbner “The denotation of a content word is the category, or set, of all its potential referents.” As for connotation Löbner states “connotations to be connected not to the word itself […] but rather to the actual denotation” (2002: 18).
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