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Semantics and Pragmatics


The study of the meaning of linguistics expressions, such as morphemes, words, phrases, clauses, and sentences.


The study of the effect of context on meaning.

lexical semantics

The branch of semantics that deals with the meaning of words.

structural semantics

The branch of semantics that deals with the meaning of utterances larger than words.


The actual concrete item or concept to which the word refers.

referential meaning

The meaning of an utterance that describes the referent, an action, or a state of being.


The extended meaning of a word or phrase that, in context, clarifies the referent.

shifting referents

Referents that are different for each speaker and each sentence. (Pronouns have shifting referents.)

semantic properties

The elements of meaning that make up the lexical entry of the word in the speaker's mind.

semantic domain

A set of words that share semantic properties.

distinctive feature analysis

The process of analyzing the semantic properties of a word.


As it relates to semantics means the concept that some words or morphemes are more common or usual than others.


More specific words that constitute a subclass of a more general word.


Words that have similar meanings and share the same semantic properties.


The referential meaning of a word or morpheme, often the first meaning listed in a dictionary.


An affective meaning for a word or morpheme.


Words that sound the same but have different meanings.


Words that have more than one meaning.


Words that are opposite in one of their semantic properties.

complementary pairs

Antonyms that negate each other.

gradable pair

Antonyms that are part of a larger set of related words and express the concept that one of them is more, whereas the other is less.

relational opposites

Antonyms that express a symmetrical relationship between two words.

structural semantics

The study of how the structure of sentences contributes to meaning.


Utterances in which the semantic properties of one word unexpectedly do not match with those of another.


Phrases that combine contradictory words.

anomalous utterances

Utterances that include words in which the semantic properties don't match.


Anomalous utterances in which two dissimilar items are symbolically considered to be similar.


Utterances in which there is a contradiction between the meaning of the parts of the utterance and the entire utterance.


The study of the effect of context on meaning.

social meaning

The information in an utterance about the social identity of the speaker.

affective meaning

The meaning of an utterance that conveys the emotions of the speaker.

speech acts

Actions performed by an utterance, such as daring, questioning, or betting.

performative sentences

The utterances that perform speech acts.

discourse analysis

The process of discovering the rules of discourse.


A series of connected utterances, such as a conversation, story, lecture, or any other communication event.

new information

Information that the speaker believes is being introduced to the listener for the first time.

old (given) information

Information that the speaker has previously introduced or believes the listener knows.


Refers to words that shift reference, that change meaning according to the context and/or the speaker.


The set of assumptions that the speaker makes about the listener's knowledge or circumstances. These assumptions are necessary in order to make an utterance meaningful.

greeting rituals

A special kind of discourse that are not at all important for the information they convey, but are important for their social function.

maxims of conversation

The cultural expectations that guide people when they are conversing.

cooperative principle

The basis for the maxims of conversation, and assumes that each person is trying in good faith to communicate and understand.

Maxim of Quantity

Say neither more nor less than is required.

Maxim of Quality

Say only what you believe to be the truth.

Maxim of Relevance

Say only what is appropriate for the topic.

Maxim of Manner

Be brief, concise, and clear.

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