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Semantics
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{{About||the programming language theory branch|Semantics (computer science)|the extended play and long play by Australian Crawl|Semantics (album)}}{{Semantics}}Semantics (from sēmantikós, "significant"){{LSJ|shmantiko/s|σημαντικός|ref}}The word is derived from the Ancient Greek word (semantikos), "related to meaning, significant", from semaino, "to signify, to indicate", which is from sema, "sign, mark, token". The plural is used in analogy with words similar to physics, which was in the neuter plural in Ancient Greek and meant "things relating to nature". is the linguistic and philosophical study of meaning, in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It is concerned with the relationship between signifiers—like words, phrases, signs, and symbols—and what they stand for, their denotation.In international scientific vocabulary semantics is also called semasiology. The word semantics was first used by Michel Bréal, a French philologist.Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 5e.1990, p.202 It 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, especially in the field of formal semantics. In linguistics, it is the study of the interpretation of signs or symbols used in agents or communities within particular circumstances and contexts. 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.BOOK, Neurath, Otto, Otto Neurath, Carnap, Rudolf, Rudolf Carnap, Morris, Charles F. W. (Editors), International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1955, The formal study of semantics intersects with many other fields of inquiry, including lexicology, syntax, pragmatics, etymology and others. Independently, semantics is also a well-defined field in its own right, often with synthetic properties.Cruse, Alan; Meaning and Language: An introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics, Chapter 1, Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics, 2004; Kearns, Kate; Semantics, Palgrave MacMillan 2000; Cruse, D. A.; Lexical Semantics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1986. In the philosophy of language, semantics and reference are closely connected. Further related fields include philology, communication, and semiotics. The formal study of semantics can therefore be manifold and complex.Semantics contrasts with syntax, the study of the combinatorics 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.BOOK, Scientific Explanation, University of Minnesota Press, Kitcher, Philip, Salmon, Wesley C., 1989, Minneapolis, MN! Statement! Programming languages| x += y| $x += $y| Perl, PHP| x := x + y| MOV EAX,[y] ADD [x],EAX| Assembly languages: Intel 8086| LET X = X + Y| BASIC: early| x = x + y| Set x = x + y| Caché ObjectScript| ADD Y TO X.| ABAP| ADD Y TO X GIVING X| COBOL| set /a x=%x%+%y%| (incf x y)| Common Lisp| /x y x add def| PostScript| y @ x +!
Charles E. Osgood>Osgood's massive cross-cultural studies using his semantic differential (SD) method that used thousands of nouns and adjective bipolar scales. A specific form of the SD, Projective Semantics methodTROFIMOVA>FIRST=IJOURNAL=PLOS ONEVOLUME=9 PAGES=E85677TITLE= HOW PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT AGE SEX AND TEMPERAMENT ESTIMATE THE WORLD YEAR=1999 PAGES= 533–552 TITLE= UNDERSTANDING MISUNDERSTANDING: A STUDY OF SEX DIFFERENCES IN MEANING ATTRIBUTION YEAR=2012 PAGES= 748–760, 10.1007/s00426-012-0462-8,

Linguistics

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, or narratives). The study of semantics is also closely linked to the subjects of representation, reference and denotation. The basic study of semantics is oriented to the examination of 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.

Montague grammar

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 Tarskian 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:

Dynamic turn in semantics

{{linguistics}}In Chomskyan 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, L.; Perceptual Symbol Systems, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22(4), 1999This 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 linguisticsBOOK, Langacker, Ronald W., Grammar and Conceptualization, 1999, Berlin/New York, Mouton de Gruyer, 3-11-016603-8, and also in the non-Fodorian camp in philosophy of language.BOOK, Peregrin, Jaroslav, 2003, Meaning: The Dynamic Turn. Current Research in the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface, Elsevier, London, The main 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 contexts changing 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." 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 underspecification â€“ meanings are not complete 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.BOOK, Gärdenfors, Peter, Peter Gärdenfors, Conceptual Spaces: The Geometry of Thought, MIT Press/Bradford Books, 2000,weblink
red wine (very dark), and red hair (coppery), or red soil, or red skin are very different. Indeed, these colours 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 Ferdinand de Saussure>de Saussure:}}and may go back to earlier Indian views on language, especially the Nyaya view of words as indicators and not carriers of meaning.BOOK, Matilal, Bimal Krishna, Bimal Krishna Matilal, The Word and the World: India's Contribution to the Study of Language, Oxford, 1990, The Nyaya and Mimamsa schools in Indian vyākaraṇa tradition conducted a centuries-long debate on whether sentence meaning arises through composition on word meanings, which are primary; or whether word meanings are obtained through analysis of sentences where they appear. (Chapter 8).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.

Prototype theory

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 â€“ 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".BOOK, George, Lakoff, George Lakoff, Mark, Johnson, Mark Johnson (professor), Philosophy in the Flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. Chapter 1., Basic Books, New York, NY, 1999, 93961754, 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).

Theories in semantics

Formal 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 its logical relation to other sentences, is then evaluated relative to a model.

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.

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.Levin, Beth; Pinker, Steven; Lexical & Conceptual Semantics, Blackwell, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991 With this theory, linguists can better deal with the fact that subtle differences in word meaning correlate with other differences in the syntactic structure that the word appears in. The way this is gone about is by looking at the internal structure of words.Jackendoff, Ray; Semantic Structures, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1990 These small parts that make up the internal structure of words are termed semantic primitives.

Lexical semantics

A linguistic theory that investigates word meaning. This theory understands that the meaning of a word is fully reflected by its context. Here, the meaning of a word is constituted by its contextual relations.Cruse, D.; Lexical Semantics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1986 Therefore, a distinction between degrees of participation as well as modes of participation are made. In order to accomplish this distinction any part of a sentence that bears a meaning and combines with the meanings of other constituents is labeled as a semantic constituent. Semantic constituents that cannot be broken down into more elementary constituents are labeled minimal semantic constituents.

Computational semantics

Computational semantics is focused on the processing of linguistic meaning. In order to do this concrete algorithms and architectures are described. Within this framework the algorithms and architectures are also analyzed in terms of decidability, time/space complexity, data structures that they require and communication protocols.Nerbonne, J.; The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory (ed. Lappin, S.), Blackwell Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996

Computer science

In computer science, the term semantics refers to the meaning of language constructs, as opposed to their form (syntax). According to Euzenat, semantics "provides the rules for interpreting the syntax which do not provide the meaning directly but constrains the possible interpretations of what is declared."Euzenat, Jerome. Ontology Matching. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2007, p. 36 In ontology engineering, the term semantics refers to the meaning of concepts, properties, and relationships that formally represent real-world entities, events, and scenes in a logical underpinning, such as a description logic, and typically implemented in the Web Ontology Language. The meaning of description logic concepts and roles is defined by their model-theoretic semantics, which are based on interpretations.BOOK, Sikos, Leslie F., 2017, Description Logics in Multimedia Reasoning,weblink Cham, Springer International Publishing, 978-3-319-54066-5, 10.1007/978-3-319-54066-5, The concepts, properties, and relationships defined in OWL ontologies can be deployed directly in the web site markup as RDFa, HTML5 Microdata, or JSON-LD, in graph databases as RDF triples or quads, and dereferenced in LOD datasets.

Programming languages

The semantics of programming languages and other languages is an important issue and area of study in computer science. Like the syntax of a language, its semantics can be defined exactly.For instance, the following statements use different syntaxes, but cause the same instructions to be executed, namely, perform an arithmetical addition of 'y' to 'x' and store the result in a variable called 'x':{| class="wikitable sortable" style="font-size:90%; text-align: left; width: auto;"
C (programming language)>C, C++, C Sharp (programming language), Java (programming language)>Java, JavaScript, Python (programming language), Ruby (programming language)>Ruby, etc.
Ada (programming language)>Ada, ALGOL, ALGOL 68, BCPL, Dylan (programming language), Eiffel (programming language)>Eiffel, Modula-2, Oberon (programming language), OCaml, Object Pascal (Delphi), Pascal (programming language)>Pascal, SETL, Simula, Smalltalk, Standard ML, VHDL, etc.
BASIC: most dialects; Fortran, MATLAB, Lua (programming language)>Lua
Batch file>Batch
Forth (programming language)>Forth
Various ways have been developed to describe the semantics of programming languages formally, building on mathematical logic:BOOK, Nielson, Hanne Riis, Nielson, Flemming, Semantics with Applications, A Formal Introduction, John Wiley & Sons, Chicester, England, 1st, 1995, 0-471-92980-8,
  • Operational semantics: The meaning of a construct is specified by the computation it induces when it is executed on a machine. In particular, it is of interest how the effect of a computation is produced.
  • Denotational semantics: Meanings are modelled by mathematical objects that represent the effect of executing the constructs. Thus only the effect is of interest, not how it is obtained.
  • Axiomatic semantics: Specific properties of the effect of executing the constructs are expressed as assertions. Thus there may be aspects of the executions that are ignored.

Semantic models

The Semantic Web refers to the extension of the World Wide Web via embedding added semantic metadata, using semantic data modeling techniques such as Resource Description Framework (RDF) and Web Ontology Language (OWL).On the Semantic Web, terms such as semantic network and semantic data model are used to describe particular types of data model characterized by the use of directed graphs in which the vertices denote concepts or entities in the world and their properties, and the arcs denote relationships between them. These can formally be described as description logic concepts and roles, which correspond to OWL classes and properties.

Psychology

In psychology, semantic memory is memory for meaning â€“ in other words, the aspect of memory that preserves only the gist, the general significance, of remembered experience â€“ while episodic memory is memory for the ephemeral details â€“ the individual features, or the unique particulars of experience. The term 'episodic memory' was introduced by Tulving and Schacter in the context of 'declarative memory' which involved simple association of factual or objective information concerning its object. Word meaning is measured by the company they keep, i.e. the relationships among words themselves in a semantic network. The memories may be transferred intergenerationally or isolated in one generation due to a cultural disruption. Different generations may have different experiences at similar points in their own time-lines. This may then create a vertically heterogeneous semantic net for certain words in an otherwise homogeneous culture.Giannini, A. J.; Semiotic and Semantic Implications of "Authenticity", Psychological Reports, 106(2):611–612, 2010 In a network created by people analyzing their understanding of the word (such as Wordnet) the links and decomposition structures of the network are few in number and kind, and include part of, kind of, and similar links. In automated ontologies the links are computed vectors without explicit meaning. Various automated technologies are being developed to compute the meaning of words: latent semantic indexing and support vector machines as well as natural language processing, artificial neural networks and predicate calculus techniques.Ideasthesia is a psychological phenomenon in which activation of concepts evokes sensory experiences. For example, in synesthesia, activation of a concept of a letter (e.g., that of the letter A) evokes sensory-like experiences (e.g., of red color).

See also

Linguistics and semiotics

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Logic and mathematics

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Computer science

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Psychology

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References

{{Reflist|30em}}

External links

{{Commons category|Semantics}}{{Wiktionary|semantics}}* semanticsarchive.net
  • Teaching page for A-level semantics
  • weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20071227084832weblink">Chomsky, Noam; On Referring, Harvard University, 30 October 2007 (video)
  • weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080928152118weblink">Jackendoff, Ray; Conceptual Semantics, Harvard University, 13 November 2007 (video)
  • weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110706160533weblink">Semantics: an interview with Jerry Fodor {{small|(ReVEL, vol. 5, no. 8 (2007))}}
{{Philosophy of language}}{{Logic}}{{Authority control}}

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