Definition and Fundamentals of Semantics

Semantics is the study or science of meaning as it relates to language. It is primarily the study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent.

Semantics is also regarded as the meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence or other language form. It is the study of abstract meaning. It is the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form.

A synonym for semantics is significs. Significs is the branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they denote.

Within the sphere of linguistics, semantics had its beginnings in France and Germancy in the 1820s, when the meanings of words were recognized as significant features in the growth of language.

Among the foremost linguistic semanticists of the 20th century are Gustaf Stern, Jose Trier, B.L. Whorf, Uriel Weinreich, Stephen Ullmann, Thomas Sebeok, Noam Chomsky, Jerrold Katz, and Charles Osgood.

Transformational grammar has emerged as a branch of semantics. This theory, developed largely by George Lakof and James McCawley, is termed generative semantics. Transformational grammar has reemphasized the role of meaning in linguistic analysis.

According to Stephen G. Pulman, a perennial problem in semantics is the delineation of its subject matter. The term meaning can be used in a variety of ways, and only some of them correspond to the usual understanding of the scope of linguistic or computational semantics.

A standard assumption in computationally oriented semantics is that knowledge of the meaning of a sentence can be equated with knowledge of its truth conditions: that is, knowledge of what the world would be like if the sentence was true.

Pulman believes that the most pressing needs of semantic theory are to find ways to achieve a wider and more robust coverage of real data. Recent work in semantics has shifted emphasis away from the purely sentence-based approach.