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Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 07:42:52 -0700 (PDT) From: Sanjukta Ghosh Subject: Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics
AUTHOR: Cruse, Alan D. TITLE: Meaning in Language SUBTITLE: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press YEAR: 2004
Sanjukta Ghosh Sarkar, Guest Lecturer, Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India.
INTRODUCTION The book under review is one in the series of Oxford Textbook in Linguistics written for advanced undergraduate or postgraduate students of Linguistics. The book can also be used by the students of languages, translation, psychology, philosophy and literature who are interested in an overview of meaning not following any particular theoretical framework. the author is conscious enough to avoid bias towards one specific theoretical standpoint, though he himself admits that if at all that is present in the work it is towards the cognitive semantic position. Apart from the semantic notion of meaning, some basic pragmatic issues related to contextualized meaning are the additional features of the book.
SYNOPSIS The book is organized into four parts. Part I discusses a number of general notions on meaning. This section has four chapters- the first chapter sets the scene for the remaining part identifying language as a means of communication. It briefly discusses different approaches in the study of meaning taken in different fields like philosophy, psychology, semiotics, neurology as well as linguistics. The second chapter is a good overview of logical matters necessary for a linguist ranging from propositions, predicates, logical relations between propositions, properties of logical relations, sense, reference, denotation and quantification.
Chapter 3 discusses different types and dimensions of meaning possible in a language. Descriptive meaning is distinguished from the non- descriptive one while classifying basic types of meaning. In dimensions of descriptive meaning intrinsic dimensions such as quality, intensity, specificity, vagueness, basicness and viewpoint are distinguished from relative dimensions such as necessity and expectedness, sufficiency and salience. Finally non-descriptive dimensions of meaning are very briefly discussed.
Chapter 4 is on the notion of compositionality and its limits discussing the cliches, metaphors and collocations.
Part II consists of maximum number of chapters devoted primarily to lexical semantics, Chapter 5 is an introduction to lexical semantics discussing its scope, different approaches of study as well as major problems in the field.
Chapter 6 is on the contextual variability of word meanings. This chapter addresses a question as the following: -- if there is a significant difference in meaning of a word in two different contexts how discrete those words are or whether they are antagonistic or ambiguous. While discussing different sources of ambiguity lexical ambiguity (homonymy and polysemy) is distinguished from non-lexical such as syntactic and pragmatic ambiguity.
Chapter 7 is vital for understanding the standpoint of the author where word meaning is regarded as conceptual in nature. This is the view taken by cognitive linguists like Jackendoff where a complex conceptual structure is proposed of containing primitive basic entities and formation rules exactly as it happens in phonology and syntax. This book postulates that syntactic structures are directly mapped onto conceptual structures without an intermediate semantic structure. The classical Aristotelian approach to categorization as well as standard prototypical approach by Rosch (1973) are discussed in the chapter while illustrating the nature of concepts.
Chapter 8 and 9 are on the paradigmatic sense relations of inclusion and identity such as hyponymy, meronymy and synonymy at one side and exclusion and opposition such as incompatibility, antonymy, converseness and complementaries at the other side. Sense relations following the cognitive linguistic position adopted in this book are relations between concepts while according to Lyons, those are relations between two lexemes.
Chapter 10 talks of the structure of the vocabulary of a language. One important paradigmatic structure is branching hierarchy which is of two types- taxonomic and meronymic hierarchy. Other significant structuring is linear which includes bipolar and monopolar chains, grids, clusters and other miscellaneous types.
Chapter 11 is on different non-literal meanings discussing thoroughly metaphors and metonymy. Different approaches to metaphors are discussed in the chapter treated in different theories of semantics (Lakoff 1990) and pragmatics (Sperber and Wilson 1986). Metonymy is distinguished from metaphors, patterns of metonymy are given with ample examples and cognitive motivation of using metonymy are also considered.
Chapter 12 discusses the normal and abnormal co- occurrences of words, types of abnormality such as semantic clash, pleonasm along with some patterns of co-occurrence of words and reason behind them.
Chapter 13 is solely devoted to motivation, aims and some problematic aspects of lexical decomposition. Starting with the classical componential semantic analysis given by Louis Hjelmslev, the author comes to the most recent proposal for reductive analysis by Anna Wierzbicka (1996) based on some universal primitive indispensable notions which are reflections of innate semantic capacities. Another approach to componential analysis based on lexical contrasts and similarities within the lexicon of a language has also been discussed following French semanticist Bernard Pottier (1973). At the end of the chapter discussing some of the demerits of componential analysis an alternative to this, a method of meaning postulates, has been proposed.
The last chapter of part II is a recent addition in the second edition on a completely new way of looking at the meaning in lexical semantics known as dynamic construal approach. This is the most interesting chapter and discards the earlier notions of meaning taking a use-based approach of meaning. The basic tenet of dynamic construal approach is that it does not hold the view that words have a permanent meaning assigned to them, rather meanings emerge in actual use as a result of a process called construal using purport or conceptual content and some conventional and contextual constraints as the raw materials. Meaning in this sense is highly context-dependent. The author also discusses some applications of dynamic construal approach in connection to sense boundaries, sense relations and construal of oppositeness.
Part III consists of only one chapter on grammatical semantics where meaning of major grammatical categories such as number, gender, animacy, tense, aspect, voice and modality are discussed. This chapter also includes a section on adjectives and their properties as well as types; nature of quantifiers and negative polarity items.
Part IV consisting of three chapters is on some of the most important topics of pragmatics such as reference and deixis, speech acts and conversational implicatures. Chapter 16 opens up the discussion with reference, taking Searle's (1969) position that it is not an inherent property of an expression, but rather is located in speech act. The discussion revolves around three kinds of reference: direct, indirect and generic. The second part of the chapter is on deixis concentrating on its five types- person, spatial, temporal, social and discourse deixis.
The next chapter is a small but complete account of Austin-Searle-based speech act theory.
The last chapter is on Grice's theory of conversational implicatures and some post-Gricean works in pragmatics. This includes the Politeness principle of Leech and the Relevance theory of Sperber and Wilson. On the whole, part IV serves as a concise introduction to some of the most discussed issues and theories of pragmatics.
EVALUATION The book contains very useful exercises at the end of the chapters, which makes it an extremely good textbook. The simple and transparent language of the book also makes it enjoyable throughout.
The book is enriched by its coverage of lexical semantics (total 10 chapters) which is generally not found in an introductory general semantics textbook. Lexical semantics had been a field of interest for psycholinguists for a long time and recently computational linguists have also become interested in this field, especially those working on Wordnet. This book will prepare the aspiring students of those fields with an elegant discussion on the main issues as well as the current trends in the field of lexical semantics. The dynamic construal approach which has given a new direction to lexical semantics reminds one of the later Wittgenstein's (1958) work. This approach certainly hopes to blur the boundary between semantics and pragmatics, and opens up the possibility of viewing the meaning of a linguistic unit with reference to a larger unit. The significance of paradigmatic relations between the words, the issue related to the selection of speaker's meaning is found to emerge as the prime concern in tomorrow's semantics. Certainly, the cognitive theory of meaning will get a boost with this introductory textbook.
REFERENCES Austin, J. L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Grice, H. P. (1975). 'Logic and Conversation'. In Cole and Morgan (1975: 41-58).
Jackendoff, Ray. (1983). Semantics and Cognition. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Jackendoff, Ray. (1990). Semantic Structures. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Leech, G. N. (1983). Principles of pragmatics. London: Longman.
Lyons, John. (1977) Semantics. 2 vols., Cambridge; Cambridge University Press,
Rosch, E. H. (1973). 'Natural Categories', Cognitive Psychology 4, 328- 350.
Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sperber, Dan and Wilson, Deirdre. (1986). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Wierzbicka, Anna. (1996). 'Explorations in semantic theory'. In Sebeok (1966:395-477).
Wittgenstein, L. (1972). Philosophical Investigations. trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER The reviewer has done her Ph.D. on 'Syntax-Pragmatics Interface of Bangla' from the Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies, University of Hyderabad, India and currently is a guest lecturer in the same centre. Her primary research interests include syntax, pragmatics and their interface studies along with a broader research area of cognitive linguistics. She works in a framework called substantivist linguistics developed by Alan Ford, Rajendra Singh and Probal Dasgupta