Definition of Semantic

Semantics is one of the important branches of linguistics that deals with interpretation and meaning of the words, sentence structure and symbols, while determining the reading comprehension of the readers how they understand others and their interpretations. In addition, semantics construct a relation between adjoining words and clarifies the sense of a sentence whether the meanings of words are literal or figurative.

Types of Semantic

There are two types of Semantics:

Connotative Semantic

When a word suggests a set of associations, or it is an imaginative or emotional suggestion connected with the words, while readers can relate to such associations. Simply, it represents figurative meaning. Usually poets use this type of meaning in their poetry.

Denotative Semantic

It suggests the literal, explicit or dictionary meanings of the words without using associated meanings. It also uses symbols in writing that suggest expressions of writers such as an exclamation mark, quotation mark, apostrophe, colon, and quotation mark etc.

Examples of Semantic from Literature

Example 1

Juliet: O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d…

The above-mentioned quote, “That which we call a rose…sweet” is, in fact, conveying figurative meaning. However, its surrounding text clarifies the meanings. Juliet is using metaphoric language and arguing with Romeo that his family name is not important for her, because she only wants Romeo.

Example 2

The use of denotation or general meaning can be seen in the very first chapter of James Joyce’s A Portrait of An Artist As a Young Man, when Stephen expresses his feelings for his mother and father saying, “His mother had a nicer smell than his father.” This sentence is conveying a denotative or general meaning that he likes his mother than father. Thus the meaning is understandable and acceptable for all types of readers around the world. Hence, the general acceptability for all people is the major factor for communicating with people successfully.

Example 3

In the famous soliloquy of Hamlet, “To be or not to be” William Shakespeare has used a word that we use quite differently these days. Hamlet says that, “When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.” Here “mortal coil” carries a connotative meaning that suggests life. However, we are using coils in different connection today, which means a series of spirals tightly joined together.

Example 4

We can understand the use of semantic in the beginning of Hedda Gabler, in which Bertha mentions Hedda as, “she’s real lady wants everything just so.” This sentence lays emphasis on the implication that unlike Hedda, other women are not real, neither they have any discipline, nor sequence in the schedules of their life. In another dialogue, she says, “But, Lord! I never dreamed I’d live to see a match between her and master George.” Here, an exclamation mark highlights Bertha’s feelings of curiosity and astonishment. Her word choice, “never dreamed” shows her intensity of surprising emotions about class inequality.

Example 5

We can find use of semantic features in poetry more elaborately, as these features describe the meanings of sentences, phrases and words and make relation between them. These features include personification, simile, imagery, metaphor and allusion, etc. For example in William Blake’s poem Night, he uses all semantic features. The poet employs a simile to compare beauty of moon with flower, “The moon like a flower,” then uses a covert comparison between unlike things as, “And there the lions ruddy eyes, Shall flow with tears of gold”; here tears of gold illustrates the value of tears. Then, we see personification, “The feet of angels bright” and imagery, “The sun descending in the west,/The evening star does shine”, brings a picture in the minds of readers.

Function of Semantic

The purpose of semantic is to propose exact meanings of the words and phrases and remove confusion, which might lead the readers to believe a word has many possible meanings. It makes a relationship between a word and the sentence through their meanings. Besides, semantic enables the readers to explore a sense of the meaning, because if we remove or change the place of a single word from the sentence, it will change the entire meanings, or else the sentence will become anomalous. Hence, the sense relation inside a sentence is very important, as a single word does not carry any sense or meaning.

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2 comments for “Semantic

  1. Raveessant
    December 8, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Outstanding essay on semantics. Made my day 🙂

  2. February 8, 2016 at 2:21 am

    The above examples on semantic give a more understandable meaning to the word than I found elsewhere.

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