Glossary

  • Amelioration: the upgrading or elevation of a word’s meaning, as when a word with a negative sense develops a positive one. Contrast with pejoration. For example, ‘nice’ meant ‘foolish’ in the 1300s but in modern society is seen as a positive adjective
  • Broadening: where a lexical item expands in meaning
  • Chomskian: relating to the ideas of Noam Chomsky
  • Cognitive Linguistics: a branch of linguistics that interprets language in terms of the concepts which underlie its forms
  • Collocation: an arrangement of words that commonly occur together, eg. ‘dead serious’
  • Conceptual Semantics: a branch of Semantics concerned with how meaning is stored and represented in the mind
  • Content Specific: a word that holds a content-rich semantic meaning, eg. not grammatical words such as ‘at’ or ‘the’, and not semantically ‘light’ words with many meanings such as ‘have’ or ‘get’
  • Generative Grammar: a reference to Chomsky’s ‘deep structure’ in linguistic study- that syntactic and semantic structures are linked together. For example, slight changes in sentence structure can still mean the same or similar thing. ‘Chris is loved by Pat’ or ‘Pat loves Chris’.
  • Lexical Analysis: the extraction of meaning from a word
  • Lexical Semantics: a subfield of linguistic semantics that is concerned with the study of words and what they denote
  • Lexicographer: people who work to edit, compile and write dictionaries
  • Montague Grammar: a theory that relates natural language semantics to syntax. It adheres closely to the principle that the meaning of the whole is a combination of the parts, as well as the way in which they function with each other
  • Pejoration: the downgrading or depreciation of a word’s meaning, as when a word with a positive sense develops a negative one
  • Polysemy: the phenomenon of a word having two or more similar meanings
  • Pragmatic Competence: the ability to use language in a contextually appropriate way
  • Prototype Theory: this is the way in which thoughts are believed to be categorised in a graded system in the mind, allowing some concepts to be more prominent than others. In Linguistics it is applied to how semantic meanings are mapped onto phonological structures
  • Semantic Bleaching: the reduction in the meaning of a word as a result of semantic change
  • Semantic Narrowing: when a word becomes less general than its earlier meaning
  • Structural Ambiguity: the grammatical phenomenon of a sentence or clause with multiple possible meanings
  • Taxonomy: a division ordered into categories
  • Truth-Conditional Semantics: this approach attempts to explain meaning in terms of the conditions in which it is true. For example, the semantic meaning of the sentence ‘The fisherman is rowing with his wife’ would change with the truth conditions of the situation: if the fisherman and his wife are quarrelling, then the semantic meaning of ‘rowing’ would be ‘having an argument’, but if the fisherman and his wife were in a rowboat, then the semantic meaning of ‘rowing’ would be ‘travelling in a boat’
  • Universal Grammar: a linguistic theory credited to Noam Chomsky, proposing that the ability to learn grammar is hard-wired into the brain and that there are properties that all natural human languages share