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Lecture Summary (01/18/2007)

This week's topic was called "Semantics: interpreting signs".

The starting aspect was (as many times before) the model of the conceptual and the real world. But this time we did not focus on the signs and their respective positions in these worlds but to the different worlds themselves. The conceptual world is an abstract/cognitive/mental domain whereas the real world is the actual domain of behaviour and interaction by particular people at a given time and place. Mr Gibbon also told us that the famous linguist Chomsky has named two different aspects in this respect: on the one hand the competence meaning the implicit knowledge of a language and on the other hand the perfomrance which stands for the actual use of a language in concrete situations. We came to the conclusion that the conceptual world contains the knowledge of a language. Mr Gibbon pointed out the importance of knowing the difference between knowledge of a language (implicit knowledge/competence which everybody has) and knowledge about a language (explicit, metalinguistic knowledge which linguists have).

We moved on to the concept of sense and reference. In fact the term "meaning" has two meanings: a general aspect (sense) and a concrete aspect (reference). For example the person George W. Bush is the reference which can be associated with several senses like "president of the United States", "son of George Bush, Senior" or "best friend of the oil companies".

Then we looked at the different semantic sign types defined by C.S. Pierce:

  • Index: sign with a physical proximity with its meaning; e.g. smoke as an index for fire
  • Icon: sign with a relationship of similarity with its meaning (visual similarity or acoustic similarity); e.g. cock-a-doodle-doo, outch, crash
  • Symbol: sign with an arbitrary relationship with its meaning; e.g. table, chair, book

As a task in this respect we had to analyse several traffic signs in the following time and categorise them as indexes, icons or symbols.

Further Mr Gibbon told us something about the difference between descriptive and subjective meanings. Descriptive meanings give an objective view on the properties of persons, places, things, etc. Subjective meanings are about the attitudes of the speaker and hearer on a certain topic.

The next topic was lexical semantics. Semantic components are either property components or relation components. Then Mr Gibbon listed up the different types of semantic relations:

  • taxonomy: generalisation-specialisation relation (hyponym > hyperonym)
  • meronomy: part-whole relation
  • synonyms
  • antonyms: opposite, complementary, inverse
  • co-hyponym

Finally we dealt with quantifiers and conjunctions. Mr Gibbon presented a text to each aspect and we had to find all quantifiers respective conjunctions in the text.

1.2.07 21:15

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