Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, like words, phrases, signs, and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotation. Linguistic semantics is the study of meaning that is used for understanding human expression through language. Other forms of semantics include the semantics of programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics.

The word semantics itself 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.


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. 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. Semantics as a field of study also has significant ties to various representational theories of meaning including truth theories of meaning, coherence theories of meaning, and correspondence theories of meaning. Each of these is related to the general philosophical study of reality and the representation of meaning. In international scientific vocabulary semantics is also called semasiology.



 Language in Thought and Action: Fifth Edition First Edition

Language in Thought and Action: Fifth Edition//

In an era when communication has become increasingly diverse and complex, this classic work on semantics, now fully revised and updated, distills the relationship between language and those who use it.

Renowned professor and former U.S. Senator S. I. Hayakawa discusses the role of language in human life, the many functions of language, and how language, sometimes without our knowing, shapes our thinking in this engaging and highly respected book. Provocative and erudite, it examines the relationship between language and racial and religious prejudice; the nature and dangers of advertising from a linguistic point of view; and, in an additional chapter called The Empty Eye, the content, form, and hidden message of television, from situation comedies to news coverage to political advertising.

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