Semantics: Linguistics and Meaning

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A short story of semantics

Why study semantics?
Semantics (as the study of meaning) is central to the study of communication; and as communication becomes more and more a crucial factor in social organization, the need to understand it becomes more and more pressing.
Semantics is also at the centre of human mind – thought processes, cognition, conceptualization – all these are strongly connected to the way in which we classify and convey our experience of the world through language.
Semantics can be defined as a branch of linguistics; it is an area of study parallel to, and interacting with syntax and phonology. While syntax and phonology study the structure of expressive possibilities in language, semantics studies the meaning
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LANGUAGE OUTSIDE WORLD onomata rhemata (performer) (action)


Identifying onoma and rhema as the constituents of LOGOS, Plato opened the way for analysing the sentence in terms which are partly linguistic and partly pertaining to logic. He was dealing therefore with the meaning of utterances rather than the meaning of individual words.
Another philosopher of Antiquity who had a contribution to the birth of semantics was Aristotle. His works (Organon, Rhetorics, Poetics) mark a major contribution to language study in general, and to semantics, in particular. He approached language from the point of view of a logician and was interested in the following issues: * What is there to know about the world? * How men know it? * How they express this knowledge in language.

He also identified the lexical level of language analysis the aim of which was to study the meaning of words either in isolation or in syntactic constructions. This marks his own contribution to semantics.

The Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages an important contribution to linguistics and semantics was brought by a group of philosophers called the Modistae because of their writings entitled On the Modes of Signification. These writings were some kind of speculative grammars in which semantics considerations held an important position. The Modistae adopted the thesei point of view of the ancient philosophers and
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