Word Meaning and Context: a Critical Examination of Contrasting Perspectives

STOTT, Mark (2019). Word Meaning and Context: a Critical Examination of Contrasting Perspectives. Masters, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00144

Abstract

This thesis conducts a critical review of Ray Jackendoff's conceptual semantics and Ronald Langacker's cognitive grammar from the perspective of Roy Harris' integrationism. The particular focus is on the role of context in word meaning and whether it is feasible to posit that words have a determinate semantic core. In both conceptual semantics and cognitive grammar the discussion of semantic determinacy and the role of context centres on the feasibility of separating semantic from pragmatic meaning. Despite substantial theoretical differences, it is found that both approaches draw similar conclusions on this matter; i.e. that a determinate semantic core exists, and that it is, therefore, possible in practice, to study specifically semantic meaning separately from pragmatic effects. It is then argued that on the topic of context the work of Langacker, Jackendoff and fellow conceptual semanticist Steven Pinker shows evidence of inconsistency between theory and practice, which could be seen to emanate from initial problematic assumptions about the nature of language and communication. Furthermore, it is argued that the position on context and determinacy reflected in both approaches leaves the metalinguistic cognitive frameworks offered by conceptual semantics and cognitive grammar unable to account for the dynamic and creative view of context and word meaning advocated by Harris' integrationism. Additionally, the thesis considers the contribution made by the linguist to semantic analysis, and argues that, following Harris' axioms of integrational semiology, the role of the semantic analyst is fundamentally creative. Therefore, any notion of the semanticist discovering 'semantic facts' is misguided, and the 'products' of analysis are better viewed as metalinguistic 'creations' which reflect the experience of the analyst and aims and practices of mainstream linguistic analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr Peter E. Jones
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00144
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2019 16:39
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2019 16:45
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/24069

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