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Biplob Prodhan
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What is semantics? Provide a analysis of major lexical relations


What is semantics? Provide an analysis of major lexical relations. [‘13,‘16]

Ans. Semantics is one of the basic levels of linguistics. It focuses on the study of meaning. An understanding of semantics is essential to the study of language acquisition and of language change. The study of semantics includes the study of how meaning is constructed, interpreted, clarified, obscured, illustrated, simplified, negotiated, contradicted and paraphrased.

In language, semantics looks at the ways in which the meanings of words can be related to each other which is known as lexical relations. There are different types of lexical relations. These are discussed below.

SynonymTwo or more words with very closely related meanings are called synonym. For example, the synonym of the word ‘village’ can be ‘hamlet, locality, suburb, rural’. English has a lot of synonyms as its vocabulary comes from different sources.

Antonym: A word that is opposite in meaning to another word is called antonym. For example: clever/fool, big/small.

Homonym: A word that is written and pronounced the same way as another but has a different meaning is called homonym. For example: Bat – Flying animal, Bat – Equipment used in cricket; Bank – Financial institute, Bank – Side of a river.

HomophoneThe words which are spelled differently but sound the same are called homophone. For example: Write – To form letter, Right – Correct; Hymn – A lyric, Him – Pronoun form of ‘male’.

PrototypeAn original object or form which is a basis for other objects, forms or for its models and generalisations is called prototype. For example: Clothing – Shirt, Pant (not shoe); Vegetables – Carrot, Tomato (not fish or meat).

AcronymAn acronym is a kind of abbreviation. It’s a word formed by taking letters form a phrase that is too long to use comfortably. For example: NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization, SAARC – South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

AbbreviationA word that has been shortened is called abbreviation. For example: Ad – Advertisement, Flu – Influenza.

PolysemyA word is polysemy when it has two or more related meanings. In the case of polysemy, these two meanings must be related in some way and not to be two completely unrelated meanings. For example: Bright – Shining, Intelligent; Head – Top of the body, Leader.

MetonymA word that is used to represent something closely related with it is called metonym. For example: ‘Crown’ for ‘King’, ‘Press’ for the news media.

CollocationThe words which are used together regularly are called collocation. For example: Come on, Black and white.

HyponymA word whose meaning is encompassed by the meaning of the other word is called hyponym. For example: Animals – Tiger, Cat, Snake; Fruits – Mango, Banana, Apple.

Indeed, semantics is one of the most fundamental concepts in linguistics. It’s concerned with the investigation of meaning in a language without any reference to the context of situation. However, meaning is an abstract phenomenon and defined in diverse ways from perspectives by different scholars.

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