LINGUA INGLESE 2 LLEM
MODULO 2 – 2008-9
MEANING AND DISCOURSE IN ENGLISH
Prof. Hugo Bowles
INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF MEANING AND DISCOURSE
The scope of semantics – the meaning of meaning
Discourse analysis is concerned with meaning in use, in other words by the meaning which is produced by speakers/writers and understood by listeners/readers in everyday life. The exchange between Darcy and Lizzie in the Pride and Prejudice film is an example of how there is often a big difference between what people say and what people mean. We will be looking at this kind of discourse meaning from lecture 6 onwards.
Semantics on the other hand is concerned with the conventional meaning of words and sentences. The word mean is used in English to convey intention (I didn’t mean to hurt you), to indicate a sign (those black clouds mean rain) and to the sense of words and sentences (“dog” means “cane”). Semantics is concerned with the last of these three and lexical semantics is concerned with the meaning of words.
However word and sentence meaning is not the only kind of meaning with which we are concerned in this module.
Lexical semantics – the meaning of words
Words and meanings
Words are not just the names of objects of our experience. You cannot just explain meanings with other words. This is circular. That is why you cannot learn a language by looking in a dictionary and that is why dictionaries are all organised differently.
It is difficult to claim that the word is the basic unit of semantics because it is difficult to establish what counts as a word and also because there is no one-to-one relationship between words and meanings:
• sometimes words are not single units of meaning; we can have many words together standing for a single concept (e.g. idioms like to be caught red-handed) and a single word standing for a number of concepts (e.g. bank)