m different languages that, in spite of their formal similarities, may have different meanings cross-linguistically. In other words, they resemble each other in the form, but express different meanings in each of the two languages.
EFL students: EFL is usually learned in environments where the language of the community and the school is not English. EFL teachers have the difficult task of finding access to and providing English models for their students.
Lexical development: Lexical development at a dynamical systems level, in which words not as individualized items, but as a system, are acquired and organized and their phonological and semantic representations continuously interact, compete, and evolve. (Bloom, 2000; Regier, 2003)
Many benefits result from having word power: the ability to better comprehend what is read, the ability to express oneself well when speaking or writing, and, of great interest in today’s political climate, the ability to score well on standardized and criterion-referenced tests of many kinds.
It is also clear that acquiring knowledge in all realms of learning – the natural and social sciences, the arts, and mathematics – requires one to master the meanings of the related technical vocabulary terms for that field. (Chris, 2004).
Words are the most central elements in the social system of communication (Labov, 1973). Words are tools of thought, and one will often find that one is thinking badly because he is using the wrong tools (Aitchison, 1989).
Students whose their first language is one of Indo-European descendants, can often call on their knowledge of cognates in their native language to determine the meanings of the words in their second language. The number of cognates they will encounter tends to increase with the grades as they encounter increasing numbers of words with Latinate roots, especially in their science and social studies courses.
Review of the Literature
Semantics (from Ancient Greek: ??????????s?mantik?s)1is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relationbetween signifiers, like words, phrases, signs, and symbols, and what they standfor, their denotation.
Linguistic semantics is the study of meaning that is used for understanding human expression through language. Other forms of semantics include the semantics of programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics.
The word semantics itself denotes a range of ideas, from the popular to the highly technical. It is often used in ordinary language for denoting a problem of understanding that comes down to word selection or connotation. This problem of understanding has been the subject of many formal enquiries, over a long period of time, most notably in the field of formal semantics. In linguistics, it is the study of interpretation of signs or symbols used in agents or communities within particular circumstances and contexts.(Neurath, et al, 1995). Within this view, sounds, facial expressions, body language, and proxemics have semantic (meaningful) content, and each comprises several branches of study. In written language, things like paragraph structure and punctuation bear semantic content; other forms of language bear other semantic content. (Neurath, et al, 1995).
The formal study of semantics intersects with many other fields of inquiry, including lexicology, syntax, pragmatics, etymology and others, although semantics is a well-defined field in its own right, often with synthetic properties. (Cruse, 2004). In philosophy of language, semantics and reference are closely connected. Further related fields include philology, communication, and semiotics. The formal study of semantics is therefore complex.
Semantics contrasts with syntax, the study of the combinatory of units of a language (without reference to their meaning), and pragmatics, the study of the relationships between the symbols of a language, their meaning, and the users of the language.(Kitcher, 1989). In international scientific vocabulary semantics is also called semasiology.
In linguistics, semantics is the subfield that is devoted to the study of meaning, as inherent at the levels of words, phrases, sentences, and larger units of discourse (termed texts). The basic area of study is the meaning of signs, and the study of relations between different linguistic units and compounds: homonymy, synonymy, antonymy, hypernymy, hyponymy, meronymy, metonymy, holonymy, paronyms. A key concern is how meaning attaches to larger chunks of text, possibly as a result of the composition from smaller units of meaning. Traditionally, semantics has included the study of sense and denotative reference, truth conditions, argument structure, thematic roles, discourse analysis, and the linkage of all of these to syntax.
In the late 1960s, Richard Montague proposed a system for defining semantic entries in the lexicon in terms of the lambda calculus. In these terms, the syntactic parse of the sentence John ate every bagel would consist of a subject (John) and a predicate (ate every bagel); Montague demonstrated that the meaning of the sentence altogether could be decomposed into the meanings of its parts and in relatively few rules of combination. The logical predicate thus obtained would be elaborated further, e.g. using truth theory models, which ultimately relate meanings to a set of Tarskiian universals, which may lie outside the logic. The notion of such meaning atoms or primitives is basic to the language of thought hypothesis from the 1970s.
Despite its elegance, Montague grammar was limited by the context-dependent variability in word sense, and led to several attempts at incorporating context, such as:
•Situation semantics (1980s): truth-values are incomplete, they get assigned based on context
•Generative lexicon (1990s): categories (types) are incomplete, and get assigned based on context
Dynamic turn in semantics
InChomskyan linguistics there was no mechanism for the learning of semantic relations, and the nativist view considered all semantic notions as inborn. Thus, even novel concepts were proposed to have been dormant in some sense. This view was also thought unable to address many issues such as metaphor or associative meanings, and semantic change, where meanings within a linguistic community change over time, and qualia or subjective experience. Another issue not addressed by the nativist model was how perceptual cues are combined in thought, e.g. in mental rotation. (Barsalou, 1999).
This view of semantics, as an innate finite meaning inherent in a lexical unit that can be composed to generate meanings for larger chunks of discourse, is now being fiercely debated in the emerging domain of cognitive linguistics. (Langacker, 1999). And also in the non-Fodorian camp in philosophy of language.(Peregrin, 2003). The challenge is motivated by:
• Factors internal to language, such as the problem of resolving indexical or anaphora (e.g. This x, him, last week). In these situations context serves as the input, but the interpreted utterance also modifies the context, so it is also the output. Thus, the interpretation is necessarily dynamic and the meaning of sentences is viewed as context change potentials instead of propositions.
• Factors external to language, i.e. Language is not a set of labels stuck on things, but “a toolbox, the importance of whose elements lie in the way they function rather than their attachments to things.”(Peregrin, 2003). This view reflects the position of the later Wittgenstein and his famous game example, and is related to the positions of Quine, Davidson, and others.
A concrete example of the latter phenomenon is semantic under specification – meanings are not c
omplete without some elements of context. To take an example of one word, red, its meaning in a phrase such as red book is similar to many other usages, and can be viewed as compositional. (G?rdenfors, 2000). However, the colors implied in phrases such as red wine (very dark), and red hair (coppery), or red soil, or red skin are very different. Indeed, these colors by themselves would not be called red by native speakers. These instances are contrastive, so red wine is so called only in comparison with the other kind of wine (which also is not white for the same reasons). This view goes back to de Saussure:
Each of a set of synonyms like redouter (‘to dread’), craindre (‘to fear’), avoirpeur (‘to be afraid’) has its particular value only because they stand in contrast with one another. No word has a value that can be identified independently of what else is in its vicinity. (Saussure, 1916).
And may go back to earlier Indian views on language, especially the Nyaya view of words as indicators and not carriers of meaning. (Matilal, 1990).
An attempt to defend a system based on propositional meaning for semantic underspecification can be found in the generative lexicon model of James Pustejovsky, who extends contextual operations (based on type shifting) into the lexicon. Thus meanings are generated “on the fly” (as you go), based on finite context.
Theories in semantics
Another set of concepts related to fuzziness in semantics is based on prototypes. The work of Eleanor Rosch in the 1970s led to a view that natural categories are not characterizable in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, but are graded (fuzzy at their boundaries) and inconsistent as to the status of their constituent members. One may compare it with Jung’s archetype, though the concept of archetype sticks to static concept. Some post-structuralists are against the fixed or static meaning of the words. Derrida, following Nietzsche, talked about slippages in fixed meanings.
Systems of categories are not objectively out there in the world but are rooted in people’s experience. These categories evolve as learned concepts of the world – meaning is not an objective truth, but a subjective construct, learned from experience, and language arises out of the “grounding of our conceptual systems in shared embodiment and bodily experience”. (Lakoff, et al, 1999). A corollary of this is that the conceptual categories (i.e. the lexicon) will not be identical for different cultures, or indeed, for every individual in the same culture. This leads to another debate (see the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or Eskimo words for snow).
Model theoretic semantics
Originates from Montague’s work (see above). A highly formalized theory of natural language semantics in which expressions are assigned denotations (meanings) such as individuals, truth values, or functions from one of these to another. The truth of a sentence, and more interestingly, its logical relation to other sentences, is then evaluated relative to a model.
Formal (or truth-conditional) semantics
Pioneered by the philosopher Donald Davidson, another formalized theory, which aims to associate each natural language sentence with a meta-language description of the conditions under which it is true, for example: `Snow is white’ is true if and only if snow is white. The challenge is to arrive at the truth conditions for any sentences from fixed meanings assigned to the individual words and fixed rules for how to combine them. In practice, truth-conditional semantics is similar to model-theoretic semantics; conceptually, however, they differ in that truth-conditional semantics seeks to connect language with statements about the real world (in the form of meta-language statements), rather than with abstract models.
Lexical and conceptual semantics
This theory is an effort to explain properties of argument structure. The assumption behind this theory is that syntactic properties of phrases reflect the meanings of the words that head them. With this theory, linguists