Wednesday, 16 November 2011


The course is centered on five modules/topics that will be chiefly treated in this handout with special attention. The modules covered are listed below:
1.1. Conceptions of meaning (Symbol-Referent; Symbol-Concept-Referent) …..…………….5
1.2. Vocabulary, culture and meaning.………………………………………………………….6
1.3. Sentence meaning vs. Utterance meaning ……………………………………………….....6
1.4. Semantic competence …………………………………………………………………..….9
1.5. Language and meaning ……………………………………………………………….…..10

2. MODULE 2: SEMANTIC RELATIONS ……………………………………………..……..11
2.1. Lexical relations ……………………………………………………………………..……11
2.1.1. Synonymy, Antonymy, Hyponymy, Homonymy, Meronymy, Polysemy,
Homophony, Homography Metonymy etc
2.2. Sentence Relations ……………………………………………………………………...…17
2.2.1. Paraphrase, Entailment, Presupposition and Contradiction.
2.3. Semantic / Lexical field. ……………………………………………………………...…...19
2.4. Lexical Predictability …………………………………………………………………..….20

3. MODULE 3: THE CONCEPTUAL SYSTEM ……………………………………..……….22
3.1. Fuzzy Concept …………………………………………………………………….………23
3.2. Graded Membership ………………………………………………………………………23
3.3. Lexicalization of Concepts ……………………………………………………………..…25
3.4. Grammaticization of Concepts ……………………………………………………………25

4.1. The Principle of Compositionality ………………………………………………….……..28
4.2. Ambiguity; ………………………………………………………………………………...28
4.2.1. Structural Ambiguity, Lexical Ambiguity, and Non-Lexical Ambiguity.
4.3. Semantic Functions/ Theta Roles/Thematic Relations …………………………………....32
4.4. Mapping of Semantic Functions to Grammatical Functions ……………………….……..35

5.1. Componential Theory of Meaning ……………………………………………………...…37
5.2. Truth-Conditional Theory of Meaning ………………………………………………...….38
5.3. Generative Theory of Meaning ……………………………………………………...…….40
5.4. Contextual Theories of Meaning …………………………………………………..………42

6.1. Semantic Broadening …………………………………………………………………….. 46
6.2. Semantic Narrowing ………………………………………………………….……………46
6.3. Amelioration vs Pejoration ……………………………………………………...…………47.
6.4. Semantic Weakening vs Semantic Shift. ………………………………………..…………48

English Semantics
{EL 203}
This handout provides the students of English with a more comprehensible description of what is technically referred to as English Semantics. It is a third product by Mwita Samson the Student of BA-ED, specializing in English and Literature at the college of Education-University of Dodoma

This course examines the various issues and theories pertaining to meaning. It discusses the arbitrariness of vocabulary and meaning, and how the vocabulary section is viewed as the function of culture.
It further examines the perception of meaning in terms of (a) symbol-referent relationship, (b) symbol-thought referent relationship (what is popularly called ‘The Semiotic Triangle’), the contribution of lexical and sentence relation to the total stock of linguistic knowledge; the conceptual system capable of organizing and classifying every imaginable aspect of our experience, from inner feelings, to perception, to cultural and social phenomena, to the physical world that surrounds us; and different sources of ambiguity.
Besides these semantic phenomena to be addressed, the course also seeks to address how a single clause element can be realized by different semantic functions.
Finally the course examines the semantic change across time from old-English to present.

Mwita Samson has devoted himself to writing different academic and educational materials in his area of expertise, reflecting the growing demands for the materials, following the ever-increasing enrollment rate to higher learning institutions, in which, the number of students has not been matching with the immediately available resources.
This handout comes to cater for the need of the students specializing in English, to softly pursue their degree programs, without much psychological punishment of fear, worry, and anxiety of failing their courses, as a result of inadequate materials.
It is my sincere hope that the beneficiaries of this handout will find it resourceful in doing their assignments, seminar questions, and above all the University Exam.

Glory be to God the Almighty, for His constant protection and care of my spiritual and secular life, throughout my lifetime, particularly the time I was preparing this handout. I also send my heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Lwakakindo and Mr. Utenga A.(UDOM staffs), for carrying us through the course plus providing us with basic readings for ease digestion of the course, some of which are cited in this work. This has greatly expanded my deep understanding of the course. I would also like to extent my unexplainable thanks to Elia Kessy Innocent for the Materials he gave me, most of which have been used in most of my works.

Last but not least, my sincere thanks to my college mates who constantly encouraged me in the production of this handout. The following should not be left unmentioned, Honesta Ndakidemi M., Gema Kessi J, Clara Mbelwa, Gibson Ezekiel, Bosco John, Maiga Ibrahim S, Mwakatundu Isack, Mzambil Rashid R, Upendo Mwihava, Christina Richard S., Aaron Vedasto, Mwakibinga Jerry, Beda Epifanus, just to mention but a few.
These are different ways of looking at semantics. That means the different ways in which semantics can be defined by different scholars.
According to Syal and Jindal (2007), Semantics is defined as the study of meaning in language. They further say that semantics is the branch of linguistics mainly dealing with meaning.
o Further, language is a fundamental tool for expressing meaning. i.e. meaning is within a language; the absence of language entails the absence of meaning.
o Meaning does not exist independent of Language.
o In short meaning depends on language.
Fromkin et al (2007) view semantics as;
The study of linguistic meaning of morphemes, words, phrases and sentences.
Crystal, (1987) shares the view with Syal and Jindal where he defines semantics as the study of meaning in language.
It can generally be said that, semantics is all about meaning, be it of morphemes, words, phrases or sentences.
In their book ‘The Meaning of Meaning’ (1923) L.K. Ogden and I. A Richards made an attempt to define meaning. They give the following list of some definition of ‘meaning’. Meaning can be any of the following
1. An intrinsic property of something.
2. Other words related to that word in a dictionary.
3. The connotation of a word.
4. The thing to which the speaker of that word refers.
5. The thing to which the speaker of that word should refer.
6. The thing to which the speaker of that word believes himself to be referring
7. The thing to which the hearer of that word believes is being referred to.
These definitions refer to many ways in which meaning is understood. One reason for the range of definitions of meaning is that words (or signs) in a language are of different types.

Taking up some of the above definitions of meaning we can discuss the different aspects of meaning of a word as follows.
1. The Logical/Denotative Meaning
This is the literal meaning of the word indicating the idea or concept to which it refers. Syal & Jindal (2007). This is also referred to as dictionary meaning by some scholars. The word “man” for instance may be defined as a concept consisting of structure of meaning ‘human, +male, +adult’ expressed through the basic morphological unit m+æ+n.
So the denotation meaning of the word ‘man’ is a male adult human being.
2. The Connotative Meaning
This is the additional meaning that a concept carries. It is defined as the communicative value an expression has by virtue of what it refers to over and above its purely conceptual content. (Leech, 1981 in Syal & Jindal (2007).
As opposed to denotative meaning this comes to refer to other things in the real world. For example while the denotative meaning of the word ‘female’ is +human +female +adult, to it may be added the concepts of weaker sex, frailty, and coward. These are just connotations/values/ attributes associated with the concept of ‘woman’.
NOTE: These connotations are not the same across cultures and time. They come into use in a particular culture over a period of time and can change with change in time. While denotative meaning remains stable since it defines the essential attributes of a concept. Ibid.
3. Thematic Meaning
This is the meaning which is communicated by the way in which a speaker or writer organizes the message in terms of ordering, focus and emphasis. (Ibid). If you take for example the active sentence and its passive equivalent, you may observe that they have different meaning though their conceptual meaning seems to be the same.
Eg. Mr. Lwakakindo teaches semantics.
Semantics is taught by Mr Lwakakindo.
In the first sentence it seems like we know who Mr Lwakakindo is, so the new information on which the emphasis is laid is “Semantics”. In the 2nd however the emphasis is on ‘Mr. Lwakakindo’. (Refer to end focus principle)
4. Reflected meaning
The meaning in which one thing is compared with another by implication usually by equating some common characteristics.
Positive comparison= honey, sweet, baby, sugar, hero, heroine, generous, etc
Negative comparison= pepper, snake, hyena, terrorist, notorious, extravagant.
E.g. if you like someone you may reflect to him/her as ‘my sweet and beloved husband/wife’
On the other hand if you hate him it will be something like ‘he is a hyena’
5. Collocational Meaning
The meaning a word obtains when it co-occurs with other words. It explains the way words fit together.
E.g. handsome boy/ man.
Beautiful girl/woman/house/garden/car.

A drop of water
A school of whales
A crowd of people
Director of the company
Principal of the college
Chancellor of the university
Commissioner of the prison
Manager of the bank
Head of department
Dean of the faculty

However there are two traditional theories that can address meaning.
The theory claims that the meaning of a word is its referent.
Referent- is something represented by a symbol. It can be an object or an entity in the real world.
Linguistically, Symbol which refers to an object, means a word.
The theory claims that meaning is the function of Symbol-Referent Relationship
Or meaning is the sum of symbol and referent.
It claims that every symbol must have its own referent.
However, the theory does not express the meaning adequately.

a) The theory is lexically based. It concentrates on defining/addressing the meaning of lexical items only. It does not consider the grammatical items.
b) Some words do not have their corresponding referents in the real world. Referent must be something concrete and tangible. But words like love, happiness, poverty, etc have no actual realizations in the real world. Grammatical words like articles, pronouns, prepositions, etc have no representations in the real world.
The theory claims that every word is associated with a particular concept.
Each symbol (word) is associated with a particular referent.
The speaker must have the concept of a particular referent.
This relationship (word-Referent and Concept) can be best understood by triangular diagram below, given by Ogden and Richards (1923). It is technically called Semiotic Triangle.

Fig 1. Sense of Referent.

The triangle covers the three assumptions/ claims above.
- The theory further claims that meaning is the function of Symbol-Concept- Referent Relationship.
- Meaning is the sum of Symbol-Concept and Referent.
However this theory also has got some pitfalls

a) Some words do not necessary associate with particular referent.
b) Some concepts underlying some words are difficult to define. i.e. it is difficult to get universal features for that concept. For example what are the defining features of the word ‘tradition’

Language is made up of Vocabularies (Words)
- These words may be lexical or grammatical.
- Lexical words belong to open class System.
- Grammatical words belong to closed class system.
- Words are chosen arbitrarily in different Languages/linguistic communities to represent certain entities or objects in the real world. Words are chosen arbitrarily to represent a particular concept.
- However there is no logical relationship between a symbol and its referent.

- E.g. house and its referent



It is possible for a single symbol to represent/ realize different referents. This can be across culture or within a particular culture.
• pupil (STUDENT) a person, especially a child at primary school, who is being taught:
• pupil (EYE) the circular black area in the centre of your eye, through which light enters:
A single referent may be realized by different multiple symbols e.g.
House –English

Is it possible to attain vocabulary saturation level in all natural languages?
The lexicon of any natural language is elastic and expansive in nature, so there is always no saturation point. New words are coined and added to the language every day.
• What is Sentence Meaning?
• It is the sum of grammatical meaning and lexical meaning. GM+LM = SM
• Lexical Meaning is the meaning of individual lexical item
• Grammatical Meaning is the meaning of individual grammatical item.
Sentence meaning cannot be obtained by combining the meaning of individual lexical items and the meaning of individual grammatical items. This leads to the formation of ‘Vague Meaning’
• Sentence meaning can also be abstract if it is not contextualized.
• A sentence which is not contextualized may have multiple linguistic meanings, if it contains a lexical item with multiple interpretations.
Eg. They are on ‘coke’ (coca-cola, cocaine, a coal derivative)
They are at the ‘bank
There are about 5 types of Sentence Meaning

This is the meaning obtained when a certain prosodic element is in operation. E.g. stress, intonation
HE is Mwita (focuses on a particular person being referred to)
He is Mwita (too general)

This is obtained after disassembling the whole syntactic construction into its syntactic units or constituent parts.
e.g. They demolished a house
- Determine the close elements within the construction using slashes.
o e.g. They /demolished /a house
- Identify the grammatical function of each syntactic unit.
o e.g. They /demolished /a house
- Determine the semantic function of each syntactic unit.
- e.g. They /demolished/ a house
Agent theme

It is the meaning according to the context. In most cases it is an implied meaning, in the sense that the speaker expresses the intention indirectly. So the hearer has to move from the surface meaning to the deep/underlying meaning.
The sentence like; ‘It is dark in here’ simply means the place has no light. But when it is uttered in context it can have different meaning.

In such a case, the sentence ‘it is dark in here’ implies the windows, and doors should be closed and the light should be switched on.
In Semantics (especially pragmatics) the intention of the speaker in producing a particular utterance is called FORCE
Connected to force are
• Locution
• Illocution
• Perlocution

Refers to when the sentence produced is grammatically and semantically well formed.
As in ‘It is dark in here’
Compare ‘The Snake is lecturing’ {this sentence is grammatically well-formed but semantically ill-formed.

Refers to the process of working out the underlying meaning of the utterance. It is the underlying meaning of an utterance which in other literatures it is called illocutionary force. As in Cruse, A (2004:347)
E.g. in the case above illocution meaning means, ‘close the windows, doors and put on the light’.

Refers to the effect of the speaker’s utterance to the hearer. In other literatures it is called Perlocutionary effect
E.g. in the above case when the son stands up and goes to close the windows, doors and to put on the light.

This is obtained from people’s social relationship. i.e. whatever sentence someone produces may promote or demote his/her personality. The status may be lowered or increased. Whatever we talk may have the impression of arrogance, politeness, rudeness etc.

Additionally, this is the meaning that a word of phrase conveys about the circumstances of its use. That is the meaning of the word is understood according to the different style and situation in which it is used. Syal and Jindal (2007:143)
Social meaning derives from an awareness of:
• The style in which something is written and spoken.
• The relationship between the speaker and the hearer
• Whether that relationship is formal, official, casual polite or friendly. (Ibid)

Is obtained from/after testing the propositions against the realities in the real world.
If for example one says, ‘Chacha steals goats everyday’ the underlying proposition is that Chacha is a thief. But the proposition needs to be proved whether true or not. To prove it, find realities from the real world.
• Establish premises
o Chacha stole a goat three weeks ago
o Chacha stole a goat two weeks ago
o Chacha stole a goat yesterday.
• Draw an inference/ conclusion
o Therefore Chacha is a thief.
Propositions have the essential property of being either true or force, and can be asserted, denied, doubted, questioned, believed, inferred and so on. Cruse, A (2004:23)
It does not differ significantly from the pragmatic meaning.
With utterance meaning the hearer has to move from the surface to the implied/underlying meaning.
Gazdar (1979) defines the utterance meaning as the sentence-context pairing. i.e. utterance meaning is the function of sentence and its context.
- When a sentence is uttered in context the first thing to consider is whether it is grammatically and semantically well formed. (LOCUTION)
- The second thing is to work the meaning of that sentence in context. (ILLOCUTION)
- Finally is to determine the effect of that utterance to the hearer (PERLOCUTION)
Someone cannot be semantically competent if he is not linguistically competent.
Linguistic competence focuses on four levels.
a) Morphology
b) Syntax
c) Phonology
d) Semantics
- A Morphologically competent person is the one who can form and interpret an infinite number of words.
- A Syntactically competent person is the one who can produce a w grammatically well-formed sentence and /phrase.
- A Phonologically competent person is the one who has got a good mastery of segmental and suprasegmental features (stress and intonation)
- A semantically competent person is the one who has got the ability to recognize whether the sentence or utterance is meaningful or not.

When do we say that a certain utterance/sentence is meaningless?
A) If the rules of lexical combination have been violated. This can be exemplified in two cases:
a. If there is improper arrangement of sentence elements.
Put he the book table on
A boy tall is here
b. If there is no mutual co-occurrence of lexical items.
A snake is lecturing.
Snake vs lecture= these lexical items cannot co-occur in a syntactic frame (sentence) because of possessing unrelated semantic features. The lexical items are then said to be not compatible.
If this happens then the Principle of Semantic compatibility has been violated.

How does the Principle of Semantic Compatibility state?
“Lexical items which do not have related semantic features should never co-occur in a particular syntactic frame or syntactic construction”
It emphasizes on the mutual co-occurrence of lexical items having related semantic features. The sentences of this nature are sometimes called Anomalous Sentences
Sentences which are grammatically well-formed but semantically ill-formed.

This is the process in which two or more unrelated lexical items co-occur. Unrelated lexical items do not have related semantic features.
E.g. “the snake vs lecture”, are semantically incompatible.

B) If the rules of grammatical combination have been violated.
a) A man over the people
b) A man of the people
c) A man the people of
In (a) the grammatical item (over) cannot co-occur with the Noun phrase (the people)
In (b) the grammatical item (of) can co-occur with the NP which becomes the complement of a preposition
In (c) the grammatical item (of) becomes the complement of the NP which brings an ill-formed construction. Thus we have disarrangement of grammatical items
C) If the sentence is illogical.
An illogical sentence is always meaningless. The logic and meaning are closely related phenomena.
A logical statement is usually meaningful and the opposite becomes the case.
Example of illogical statement is a circular statement or tautological statements.
Circular/tautological statements are always called Repetitive Statements.
E.g. Keri will come on Saturday and the day after Friday.
They spoke in turn, one after the other.
Even the sentences that are semantically incompatible are also illogical.
E.g. She ate the rock
D) If the sentence is contradictory
E.g. That colourless green shirt is beautiful.
(Something cannot be colorless and still remain green)
- The bachelor’s wife is pregnant
- The orphan’s father is at home.

The interest is to examine the relationship between language and meaning.
Meaning does not exist independent of language.
Meaning is within the language. As language exists in our minds so does meaning


1. Symbol-Referent Theory is quite effective in addressing the whole concept of meaning. With plenty of examples, examine the validity of this assertion.
2. Write short notes on:
(a). Denotative Meaning
(b). Collocational Meaning
(c). Connotative Meaning.
(d). Thematic Meaning.
(e). Reflected Meaning.

The focus is on the relationship between one lexical item and another and one sentence and another.
‘Semantic relations’ is a cover term for a variety of relations such as lexical relations as well as sentence relations.
Crystal (1987) identified two categories of semantic relations.
• Syntagmatic semantic relations
• Paradigmatic semantic relations
• These are relations that morpho-syntactic elements have, with other elements they co-occur with.
• These are relations of mutual co-occurrence of elements in a syntactic frame or a syntactic construction. Syntagmatic semantic relations follow from the structuralist approach. The approach emphasizes on systematic sequencing of elements so as to get a well-formed syntactic construction.
• The relation is sometimes called horizontal in a sense that elements in a sentence are horizontally related.

E.g. A young boy has gone away

• When the sentence is grammatically well-formed this is called Positive Syntagmatic Semantic Relation. As in “A young boy has gone away”.
• But a sentence like ;
• “A young boy have gone away” is not grammatically well-formed because there is no Syntagmatic relationship between have + boy.
• This is called Negative Syntagmatic Semantic Relation
NOTE a grammatically well-formed sentence is not necessarily semantically well-formed
These are relations of substitution among elements. Elements can substitute with each other in a specific syntactic context. E.g. Is that a new radio? No, it is an old radio.
The words new and old have substituted each other. This takes us to the substitution called Antonymy (the relation of opposite)
Paradigmatic Semantic Relation essentially deals with Lexical Relations

These are;

There are about six arguments pertaining to synonymy.
- 1). Is a relation which denotes words or expressions with identical meanings in virtually all contexts of their occurrence. i.e. Synonyms must have identical meanings.
- 2). Synonyms are words/expressions that have the same meaning in some or all contexts of their occurrence.
- 3).Two words are synonymous if they have the same meaning
- 4). Two lexical items can be considered synonymous if they have the same denotative, connotative and social meaning, and can replace each other in all contexts of their occurrence.
- 5). Synonyms are two or more forms with very closely related meanings, which are often but not always intersubstitutable in sentences.
- Synonyms differ in spellings and pronunciations
Generally synonyms are lexical items which are similar semantically but orthographically and phonologically dissimilar.

NOTE. Normally there are no complete synonyms in any natural language and it is not always the case that synonyms should replace other in all contexts of their occurrence.
Eg. This is a big problem
This is a large problem
The 2nd sentence does not have a semantic taste.
This is the relation of inclusion. That means hyponyms should include the meaning of a more general term. Hyponyms should inherit the meaning or attribute of a more general term.
The relationship between the more general term and the hyponyms (specific terms) is usually vertical, to such an extent that we get a hierarchical taxonomy.
Taxonomy in this sense focuses on levels/ layers
Hyponymy is the relation between a more general term and specific terms
Hyponymy means the loss of specificity.
In hyponymy we consider the types of.
E.g. BIRD Super ordinate {general term}

Crow hawk duck Hyponyms {specific term}

Kestrel sparrow hawk {more specific terms}
Fig 3 hyponymic structure
It describes the part-whole relationship.
The relationship between something s a whole and its parts/constituents.
The thing which is a whole forms the general term and the constituent parts form the specific term.
The relationship between the general term and specific term is usually vertical and results into something like taxonomy.

Meronymy deals parts of.

Leg head arm abdomen

Hair nose ear mouth eye
Fig4 meronymic structure
Meronymy express the part-whole relation. Example hand:finger, head:nose, wheel:spoke, car:engine etc. in the case of figure: nail, finger is said to be a meronym and hand is the holonym. Cruse (2004:150)
Meronymy shows an interesting parallel with hyponymy (they must not, of course, be confused: a dog is not part of an animal and a finger is not a kind of a hand)

This is a relationship existing among lexical items which are semantically opposite.
Basically there are 4 (four) types of Antonyms.
These are pairs of lexical items in which the negative of one implies the positive of the other. These pairs are usually called Complementary pairs/Binary pairs
• E.g. Dead/alive
• Fail/pass
• Miss/hit
• Male/female
• Present/absent
• Awake asleep
They are complementary in a sense that alive means not dead, and dead means not alive and so on.
These are lexical items in which the positive of one does not necessarily imply the negative of the other.
They are usually adjectives.

Hot cold
Happy/ sad

In gradable antonyms the meaning of adjectives is related to the object they modify. The words do not provide an absolute scale. For example we unquestionably know that “a small elephant” is much bigger than “a large mouse”. So it is a matter of degrees. Fromkin et al(2007:190)

These are pairs of lexical items used to describe movement in which one item describes movement in one direction and the other item describes the movement in the opposite direction. They are usually associated with the processes that can be reversed.

Those describing movement
Come /go

Those describing process

These are items which describe relations of alternative view points.
• Own/belong to
• Above /below
• Employer/employee
• Wife/husband
• Boy/girl
In some literatures they are referred to as Relational Antonyms because they display symmetry in their meaning. That means if X gives something to Z then Z receives something from X. (ibid)
E.g. give/receive
Behind/in front of
Pairs of words ending in –err/or and -eel are usually relational opposites. As in

In English there are different ways of forming the Antonyms
a) By adding Prefixes like un-, non-, in-, imp-, dies- as in
b) By changing the prefix
As in ascend/descent
c) By adding or changing a suffix

Cruse (2004:107) defines homonyms as two different words which happen to have the same formal properties (phonological and graphic). A lexicographer would then give two main entries in a dictionary, as bank ¹ and bank ².
• He shares a view with Fromkin et al who say that homonyms are words that have different meanings but are pronounce the same and may or may not be spelt the same. (2007:191). Although in their book, they have treated homonyms and homophones as being synonymous, in this discussion we shall treat them separately, each on its own right.
• To Crystal, homonymy refers to cases where two (or more) different lexemes have the same shape.
• Homonyms are the chief source of Lexical ambiguity. As in a sentence like. I will meet you at the bank.
• Examples of homonyms are
• Spring1 (season,
• Sprig2 coiled wire,
• spring3. A natural source of water)
• Pupil 1 (part of the eye,
• Pupil2 a student)
• Iron 1metal,
• Iron2 a device for making cloths smooth),
• Homonyms are usually confused with polysems. Although there is no discrete boundary between the two, but a difference can be made. While homonyms have unrelated meanings, polysems on the other hand have related meanings.

This refers to the word that has multiple related meanings conceptually or historically. The word is said to be polysemous (polly-seamus). Ibid(2007:192).
Cristal (1987:106) refers to it as cases where a lexeme has more than one meaning. E.g. the word ‘Chip’ means a piece of wood, electric circuit and a food.
The words in dictionary with multiple definitions are all polysemous. E.g. man, ( all the meanings of the word man are related to human beings)
1 an adult male human being:
2 a male employee, without particular rank or title:
3 a marketing/advertising, etc. man a man typical of or involved in marketing/advertising, etc
4 INFORMAL a woman's husband or male partner:
5 MAINLY {USA} INFORMAL used when addressing someone, especially a man:
Hey, man, how are you doing?
O’grady et al (1987) say polysemy occurs when a word has two or more related meanings.

These are lexemes which have the same spellings but different pronunciation. Ibid.
Homograph is a word that is spelled in the same way as one or more other words but is different in meaning, e.g. the verb "project" and the noun "project." Microsoft® Encarta® 2008.
Although like homonyms, homographs have the same spellings, in homographs the pronunciation sis also different.
Example of homographs
• Wind¹ /w nd/ moving air
• Wind²/wa nd/ to conclude something or to bring an activity to an end
• Live¹ /l v/ to be alive
• Live²/la v/broadcast while it is happening
• Minute¹/ m n t/ 60 seconds
• Minute²/ma nju:t/ extremely small in size.

As the name suggests {homo-phone} these have the same pronunciation although they are different in spellings and of course meanings. To Stewart and Vaillet (2001494) the term refers to one of two distinct words with the same pronunciation but different meanings and spellings.
• (e.g. two, too, too.),
• (ewe, you, yew),
• week and weak,
• waist and waste.
• The same idea is shared by Crystal who defines it as the lexemes which have the same pronunciation, but different spellings (e.g. through v/s threw)

The words of this nature are called homophones or (homophonous words)

Metonym is a word that substitutes for an object, the name of an attribute or concept associated to that object. The use of ‘crown’ for ‘king’ or for the government ruled by a king is an example of a metonym. Fromkin et al (2007:192).
- A metonym is not necessarily one word. As in a hotel -“Room 44 needs a bottle of champagne” “Room 44” here refers to the customer who is in that room.
- Metonymy is also common in literature used as a figure of speech that consists in using the name of one thing for that of something else with which it is associated. As in “we waited for two sunsets hopelessly”
- “Sunsets” here implies two days,
- He has a good name in our society. Or, They spoilt his name. “Name” refers to reputation
The focus is on the relationship between one sentence and another in semantic terms. That means how one sentence is related to another semantically. The relationship may be triggered by some words in a sentence or the whole syntactic structure. There are four types of sentence relations.
A. Entailment
B. Paraphrase
C. Contradiction
D. Presupposition
This is the relation in which the truth of one sentence necessarily implies the truth of another sentence. O’grady (1987:272) Stewart and Vaillet (2001:492) and Fromkin et al (2007:176). If the first sentence is true the second sentence must also be true; though the opposite does not necessarily follow.

 The Park wardens killed the tiger
 The tiger is dead
In the sentences above, if it is true ‘that the park wardens killed the tiger’ then it must also be true that ‘the tiger is dead.’
Compare the following pairs of sentences
 He married a beautiful girl
He is married
 He lives in Dodoma
He lives in Tanzania
 He teaches mathematics well
He is a teacher.
 Nyerere sat on a chair
Nyerere sat on a piece of furniture.
 So generally entailment goes in one direction only. While the sentence He married a beautiful girl
Entails He is married the reverse is not true. It is not necessarily true that He is married entails he married a beautiful girl.

This is the relation in which two sentences have got the same meaning. One sentence paraphrases the other.
Sentences that can paraphrase each other are usually synonymous. This is in line with what O’grady ea al (1987) say, “two sentences that can have the same meaning are said to be paraphrases o each other.
E.g. Kuryan husbands beat their wives
Kuryan wives are beaten by their husbands.
 I bought a shirt for my uncle
I bought my uncle a shirt.
 It is unfortunate that the patient died
Unfortunately, the patient died.
 Jane is married to Nelly
Nelly is married to Jane.
It is impossible for one sentence in any pair to be true, without the other being true as well. ibid. If it is true that “Kuryan husbands beat their wives”, it is also true that “Kuryan wives are beaten by their husbands”. Similarly, if it is false that “Kuryan husbands beat their wives”, it is also false that “Kuryan wives are beaten by their husbands”.
Sentences that have got the same meaning usually have got the same truth-conditions.
These are the facts, circumstances which make a certain sentence true.
E.g. The police chased the thief
The thief was chased by the police.
Hamis bought a car from John
John sold a car to Hamis.


Is the relation in which whenever one sentence is true the other sentence must be false. Fromkin et al. say: “two sentences are contradictory if, whenever one is true, the other is false or equivalently, there is no situation in which they are both true or both false.
Mwita is a bachelor contradicts with a sentence Mwita is married.
 Chacha is an orphan.
Chacha’s father is here.
 Bhoke is a PhD holder
Bhoke has one degree only
Asha is alive
Asha is dead

It is a relation in which the previously known meaning is implied in the sentence. It is bit similar to entailment.
In presupposition there is a kind of background information that is taken for granted, assumed by the speaker to be known as a fact to the hearer.
This happens even when the sentence is negated or changed to questions, the presupposition meaning remains there. As in
 “The Prime Minister of Burundi is not here” presupposes Burundi has a Prime Minister {now whether he is here or not is another case)
 “Has your son Peter passed the exam?”
This presupposes that: 1. You have a son. 2. Your son did the exam {now whether he has passed or not is another case}
 Her husband is a fool
She has a husband
 He has stopped smoking every day
He used to smoke everyday
 I don’t regret leaving London
I left London
 O’grady et al comment that there are many ways in which a speaker’s beliefs can be reflected in the language use. Compare in the regard of the following sentences.
o Have you stopped exercising regularly?
o Have you tried exercising regularly?
 Use of the verb ‘stop’ implies a belief on the part of the speaker that the listener has been exercising regularly. No such assumption is associated with the verb ‘try’.
 So the assumption or belief implied by the use of a particular word or structure is called Presupposition
This is the area of meaning containing interrelated lexical items (lexemes). Semantic field is similar to hyponymy in a sense that semantic field itself is a general term, containing meaning that can spread to other specific terms.
These specific terms are usually types of the general term. Within a semantic field there can be sub semantic fields. Sub-semantic field can be a specific tern containing more specific terms.
Usually lexemes are grouped/classified according to their semantic fields. i.e. every semantic field has got its own lexemes
E.g. . The semantic field of ‘CLOUR’



Dark blue Light blue Bluish MORE SPECIFIC TERM
Fig 5 semantic field of colour
However the process of assigning the lexemes to their corresponding semantic fields is not quite easy. It is a hectic and frustrating exercise. Why so?
There are some problems/challenges which can be encountered: these are
A. Some Lexemes belong to more than one semantic field.
E.g. where does the lexeme orange belong to
Orange-- Colour
Orange Fruit
Tomato Fruit
Tomato Vegetable
Wheat Food crops
Wheat Cash crops
B. Other lexemes do not have specified semantic fields.
To which semantic field do the following belong to:, noise, difficulty, poverty, love etc
Probably they belong to the sub-semantic field of abstract nouns.
C. Other lexemes do fall mid-way between the semantic fields.
E.g. the Kehansi frogs do not lay eggs but give birth to complete offspring. They are therefore both mammals and amphibians. Bat has wings but does not lay eggs and gives birth to complete offspring. So is it a mammal or bird.
This is an automatic and effortless process of sequencing lexemes so as to realize a particular meaning. Speakers do not bother to think of what lexeme to follow next in a particular speech frame. The next lexeme in a speech frame comes automatically/naturally.
It can also be defined as the mutual co-occurrence of lexemes in a particular syntactic construction.
E.g. commit – suicide
It is collocationally conditioned. It is collocation which determines the mutual co-occurrence of lexemes. Lexical items collocate with other lexical items. If one lexical item collocates with another lexical item; this is called Lexical Collocation.
If one lexical item collocates with a particle this is called Grammatical Collocation
Depend on.
There are two types of Lexical Predictability
A Lexeme collocates with a small range of items.
E.g. Commit

A Lexeme collocates with a wide/diverse range of items

Do all lexical items that occur next to each other in construction have a collocational relationship? Or Are all lexemes occurring next to each other in a construction collocationally conditioned.?
Some lexemes are collocationally conditioned and some are not.
Some lexemes are mutually predictable and others are not. A big percentage is taken by those which are not mutually predictable.
A single lexeme may co-occur with any/other lexemes
When a lexeme is free to co-occur with any other lexeme this is called FREE LEXICAL COMBINATION
However thus freedom is semantically constrained, in a sense that there is no total freedom
Why the freedom is semantically constrained?
Lexical items occurring next to each other must meet the Principle of Semantic Compatibility
The lexical items must have compatible Semantic Feature/related semantic features.
Eg. The rock is sleeping
Rock + Sleep are semantically incompatible they cannot co-occur

1. Assigning lexemes to their corresponding semantic fields is a very hectic and frustrating exercise. Discuss this argument giving relevant examples.
2. All lexemes which occur next to each other in any syntactic frame are mutually predictable. Discuss this statement critically giving examples where possible.
3. Work out the types of sentence relations realized by the following pairs of sentences.
a. Her son is schooling at Martin Luther school
She has a son.
b. George is a PhD holder.
George has one degree only.
c. Mwita is married to Bhoke
Bhoke is married to Mwita.
d. He teaches at Kigoma Secondary School.
He is a teacher.
4. (a). What are the parallels and congruencies between POLYSEMY and HOMONYMY?
(b).Compare and contrast hyponymic structure and meronymic structure.

Concept can be defined on the basis of its attribute and internal organization. The term itself can be captured using two Fundamental theories
o The first theory defines Concept using the set of Necessary and Sufficient Conditions. This theory is called THE NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS THEORY
In the theory there are (i) Necessary Conditions (ii) Sufficient Conditions
These are basic defining features of a concept. They are usually universal. They can easily be noted (They are noticeable/spectacular/outstanding)
E.g. dog
+4 legs
+long tail

These are total defining features of a particular concept. It is a complete set of attributes/features/characteristics which can precisely define a particular concept.
In most cases within sufficient conditions there are Basic and Non-Basic Conditions. For that matter we can say Sufficient Conditions are the product of both Basic and Non-Basic Conditions. In this scenario Necessary Conditions are just a sub-set of Sufficient Conditions.
Some of the Basic conditions emanate from different Cultural Architectures. This means they are culturally manufactured/constructed. Sometimes they are called cultural constructs

-adult Basic

E.g. man----
-Decision maker
-jobseeker Cultural constructs
These features usually fluctuate with time. In this theory there are some questions to be addressed.
1. How necessary are the Necessary Conditions?
E.g. if we say the following are the Necessary Conditions for the dog:
-Four legs
DOG--- - Bark
-Long tail
Now, suppose by birth defects the dog is born without a tail, or does not bark. Can w still say it’s a dog?

2. Is it possible to attain a complete set of Sufficient Conditions?
That is to say, can we list that from 1-say 10; these are the sufficient conditions for a particular concept? It is perhaps difficult to attain a complete set.
3. Is it possible to establish a set of Basic and Non-Basic features for all concepts?
It is particularly difficult for Abstract Concepts (non-concrete concepts)
E.g. Beauty, Poverty, Richness, Difficulty, Intelligence, Knowledge, etc
With these concepts we can’t have absolute definitions. That is to say we don’t have a clear-cut boundary between the features defining these concepts. In most cases concepts of that nature have got relative definitions, and do not have clear-cut boundaries.
Concepts o this nature are called FUZZY CONCEPTS. With concepts of this nature it is difficult to establish a set of Basic and Non-Basic features. What is Basic to ‘A’ can be Non-Basic to ‘B’ and the vice versa.

o The second theory which defines the concept theory is called PROTOTYPICAL THEORY.
This theory defines concept in terms of its internal organization. It says that every concept is internally organized into levels/layers/strata. This means there are levels occupied by different members of a particular concept. These layers/levels are hierarchical,, one below the other. Members which occupy these levels have got different status. Other members are typical and others are less typical.
The theory states that;
Typical members of a particular concept are usually closer to the core/centre and less typical members are usually in the periphery of the centre
Shortly, members of a particular concept are arranged according to their typicality. This takes us to the concept called GRADED MEMBERSHIP
Is a situation in which members of a particular concept are graded according to their typicality, where typical members are closer to the centre and less typical members are at the periphery of the centre. This kind of grading is usually hierarchical and form what is called CONCEPTUAL HIERARCHIES,
Basically there are two types of conceptual hierarchies.
a. The first is displayed by the relative arrangement of the members of a particular concept in relation to the centre.
b. The second type contains three levels of generality.
The levels of generality
i. Super ordinate level
ii. Basic level
iii. Subordinate level.

Consider the following examples.

Fig 6 possible internal structure of the concept furniture
These levels are hierarchical.
The existence of fuzzy concepts and the graded membership in concepts provides important insights into the nature of the human conceptual system. Concepts are characterized by an internal structure that recognizes degrees of typicality as well as by fuzzy boundaries that make categorization uncertain in some cases. O’grady et al (1987)
Concepts are in a certain relationship. They relate to each other. They form what is called CONCEPTUAL NETWORK. In that network the concepts are usually hierarchical.
Collins and Quillian (1969) proposed a certain model to show the way concepts can exist in particular network. This model is called the CONCEPTUAL NETWORK MODEL. In this model concepts are represented by nodes: to which attributes of that particular concept are attached.
E.g. the concept BIRD
Four legs
BIRD feathers
lay eggs

lay eggs
HEN feathers
DUCK webbed legs
lay eggs
wings etc
Lexicalization of Concepts is the process of representing Lexical concepts symbolically. It is the process of assigning linguistic symbols to different lexical concepts. It is the symbolic manifestation/representation of lexical concepts.
E.g. Suppose you have concept ‘X’ which does not have a linguistic symbol in a particular natural language; you can simply rely on the features and thus you have the concept. For Example:
- Has four legs
- Barks
- Animal
- Long tail etc
Then people think of what label should be given to that concept. If they find out that the label DOG fits and they all agree, this is called LEXICALIZATION OF CONCEPTS.
Lexicalization is done differently in different natural languages. That’s why in other instances there is no one to one correspondence between concepts and linguistic symbols.
A single concept can have multiple linguistic symbols.
E.g. the concept with features
Has four legs
Barks ESESE --Kurya
Animal DOG --English
Long tail EMBWA --Subi
MBWA -- Kiswahili
Even within a single natural language there may be a single concept but multiple linguistic symbols. Sometimes it may be for euphemistic purposes.
In Kurya Banana may be called Eketoke or ekekone., Snake is Inchoka, but at night it is irighendahanse, as in Subi where it is Inzoka, but at night engendelahansi.
In Kurya again Red ants are Amasisi, but at night Amaikwabhe.

This is the process of assigning grammatical symbols to grammatical concepts. The process of representing grammatical concepts symbolically. It is the symbolic representation/manifestation of grammatical concepts.
Grammaticization is done differently in different natural languages. Every language has its own way of grammaticizing grammatical concepts.
E.g. the grammatical symbols for the grammatical concept
PAST TENSE -ed in English played
-li in Kiswahili alicheza
-ka in Kurya and Subi akabhina {kurya}

FUTURE WILL/SHALL IN English he will come
-ta in Kiswahili atakuja
-li in kurya nalicha
CONTINUOUS -ing in English - is playing
-li in bena alikukina
-la in kurya alahoya

PLURAL -s in English girls
-wa in Kiswahili wasichana
-bha inKurya and most bantu. abhasaghane
NEGATION In-, im- in English impossible
Ha-, si-, hu-, in Kiswahili haiwezekani
-ta- in Kurya etabhe

1. All languages have the same system of lexicalizing and grammaticizing concept. With examples argue for or against this assertion.
2. Concepts can be defined in terms of its attribute and internal organization. Discuss this assertion with reference to the Necessary and Sufficient Conditions Theory and the Prototypical Theory.

It studies the relationship between syntax and semantics. In this topic the interest is on how the positioning of words and phrases in a syntactic structure helps determine the meaning of the entire sentence.

The focus is on working out the meaning of a sentence to see whether a sentence has got a single meaning or multiple meanings. If a sentence has got multiple meanings, what are the reasons behind?
Examining different roles played by different referents of Noun Phrase..i.e. which role does a particular Noun Phrase play in the situation described by the sentence. How syntax determines semantics. It is technically referred to as SYNTAX-SEMANTICS INTERFACE.
 Traditionally, syntax is the arrangement of words in a particular sentence plus the rules that determine such an arrangement. This is called Syntax of a Sentence.
 Syntax of a Phrase- this is the arrangement of words so as to form a phrase plus rules and principles that determines such an arrangement. These words are arranged in a particular order and the order is rule-governed.
 Syntax of Words- this is the arrangement of word building blocks in a word plus rules that determine such an arrangement.
Syntax of Morphemes- this is the arrangement of phonemes in a particular morpheme plus the rules responsible for such an arrangement.
Generally syntax can be viewed at those four levels.
Is it possible that a syntactically well-formed sentence is also semantically well-formed? The answer is partly yes partly no.

Sometimes a syntactically well-formed sentence is also semantically well-formed. Also if a sentence is syntactically ill-formed it can also be semantically ill-formed.
At phrase level, if a phrase is syntactically well-formed it is also semantically well-formed, though not in all cases. If a phrase is grammatically ill-formed it can also be semantically ill-formed.
If a word is grammatically well-formed it can also be semantically well-formed and the vice versa.
o Chomsky (1957) in his book ‘Syntactic Structures’ did not consider the question of semantics. It was taken for granted that if a sentence is syntactically well-formed, it is automatically, semantically well-formed. To him syntax was primary and semantics was secondary. To him syntax determined semantics. For that matter syntax was an independent variable. But the same scholar in his book; ‘Aspects of Theory of Syntax’ (1965) decided to treat Syntax along with Semantics. He said that Syntax and Semantics are complementary phenomena. He further said that in no way can syntax be separated from semantics. They have to work together in order to produce meaningful constructions. In short they are inseparable; neither is independent of the other; neither is primary over the other.
o This idea was supported by Habwe and Karanja (2004) who argue that there is no clear-cut boundary between Syntax, because when one talks of Syntax is at the same time talking about Semantics.
o Hoffman (1993) had the idea that Syntax and Semantics are closely related phenomena. They are like interlocking spurs.

It states that;
‘The meaning of a sentence is determined by the meaning of its component parts and the order in which they are arranged in a particular construction.’
o This however does not mean that the meaning of a sentence is determined by merging the meaning of individual words. The idea behind the principle is that, words which are patterned together in order to form a sentence must be meaningful and in acceptable order. That means lexical-lexical co-occurrence must be meaningful. Lexical particle co-occurrence also must be meaningful. Lexemes which occur next to each other in a construction must be meaningful. Lexical items and grammatical items which occur next to each other must be meaning.
o If the words in a sentence are not meaningful we cannot get a meaningful sentence. E.g. the house is pregnant. This has negative lexical-lexical co-occurrence.
Is the situation in which a word or phrase, or a sentence has got more than one interpretation; i.e. multiple interpretation/meanings.
Ambiguity is a property of words or sentences of having two or more meanings. Stewart & Vaillet (2001) Generally speaking, ambiguity is the state in which a word, phrase or the whole sentence has more than one possible interpretations/meaning.
Types of Ambiguity
There are three major types of Ambiguity namely
(A) Lexical Ambiguity
(B) Structural/Syntactic Ambiguity
(C) Non-Lexical Ambiguity.
There may also be minor types such as.
(D) Intonation Ambiguity.
(E) Metaphorical Ambiguity.
 Lexical Ambiguity
The situation in which a word in a construction has multiple interpretations or meanings.
I saw him at the bank (the financial institution/ sides of the river)
Lexical ambiguity arises when at least one word in a phrase has more than one meaning. Fromkin et al (2007:178). This is a type of Ambiguity based on lexical words. In many cases a single word corresponds to more than one thought. According to Vaillet & Stewart (2001) words with more than one meaning are said to be lexically ambiguous. Example; bank, crane, spring, run, light, iron.
Lexical Ambiguity is also when a lexical item has more than one meaning chiefly treated by homonymy and polysemy.
Those caused by homonyms include: bank, iron, park, pupil just to mention a few.
For example if someone asks; “ Would you bring me an iron please?” the hearer will not clearly know which iron to bring; “a metal iron” or “a tool with a flat base used for making cloths smooth when heated”. Example.
He drove back to the park
Meaning 1. He drove back to the animal Park
Meaning 2. He drove back to the car parking
Those caused by polysems, include; head, flight, heat just to mention a few.
Example 1. He has a good head
Part of the body- Part of the body above the neck
Mind- He has a good mind
Top part- He has a good title

Example 2. The student showed me the head.
Meaning 1. The student showed me the leader of school/department/institution
Meaning. 2. The student showed me the part of the body above the neck.
Example 2. The Prime minister was put under heat.
The Prime Minister was put under high temperature
The Prime Minister was put under pressure
 Structural ambiguity
This occurs when a sentence or phrase has multiple interpretations.
o The chicken is ready to eat.
1. The chicken can eat on its own.
2. The chicken can be eaten.
o He saw people with binoculars.
1. He saw people by using a binocular
2. He saw people who were holding a binocular.
Is where a phrase or sentence has got more than one interpretations. Stewart & Vaillet (2001) point out that phrases with more than one meaning, because of the structure of the phrase are referred to as structurally ambiguous. Also Cruse (2004) comments that, many syntactic ambiguities arise from the possibility of alternative constituent structures.
More examples from Syal and Jindal (2007:102) illustrate this structural ambiguity
They called her a taxi
Meaning 1: They nicknamed her a ‘taxi’
Meaning 2: They called a taxi for her.
The magician made her an iron box
Meaning 1: the magician made an iron box for her.
Meaning 2: the magician changed her into an iron box
I stepped on a snake crossing the road
Meaning 1: I stepped on the snake that was crossing the road
Meaning 2: I stepped on a snake when I was crossing the road
Structural ambiguity may be caused by;
 -ing structure. (gerund)
Example 1.. Hunting lion is dangerous. This can probably mean
1. The act of hunting lions is dangerous or
2. The lion that is hunting is dangerous
Example 2.Flying planes can be risky. This could probably mean;
1. The act of flying planes can be risky, or
2. The planes that are flying can be risky
 Misplaced modifiers.
This is when the meaning of the component words can be combined in more than one way. O’grady et al (1997:284). Example . Old men and women are wise.
Meaning 1: Only old men and all women are wise.
Meaning 2: Old men and old women are wise.
 Improper use of punctuation marks.
Eg. Isack, Mwakatundu is calling you.
Isack Mwakatundu is calling you.
 Ellipsis
This is caused by the omission of some important words from a construction.
Example 1. Mwanyerere said she would come or telephone me but she didn’t.
She didn’t do what? She didn’t come, or she didn’t telephone.

Example 2.Mtundu says he will either marry or remain a bachelor but I don’t think so.
“So” stands for what?
I don’t think he will marry or I don’t think he will remain a bachelor
I like ice-cream more than you
1. I like ice-cream more than you like it
2. I like ice-cream more than I like you.
He loves his children more than his wife
He loves his children more than he loves his wife
He loves his children more than how his wife loves them.

 Non-lexical ambiguity.
This is triggered by pronouns. Pronouns are the sources of non-lexical ambiguity (pronoun Ambiguity)
Example1. Mwita asked Mzambili to meet him at Jamatini but he did not appear;
Who did not appear? Mwita or Mzambili?
Meaning 1: Mwita asked Mzambili to meet him at Jamatini but Mwita did not appear
Meaning 2: Mwita asked Mzambili to meet him at Jamatini but Mzambili did not appear.
Example 2.He did not see his book.
Whose book?
Meaning 1: He did not see his own book
Meaning 2: He did not see someone’s book

The minor types of ambiguity include the following
 Intonation ambiguity
This is caused by improper use of intonation/stress in particular words of sentences. This is specifically in spoken form.
Example. Mr. Bata is here
Miss Tabata is here
My train {compare} might rain
Those who sold QUICKLY made profit
Those who SOLD quickly made profit.
 Metaphorical ambiguity.
This is caused by the use of metaphors/metaphorical expressions in some constructions. When someone is not aware of that metaphorical expression it may cause ambiguity to him/her.

For example. Ndaikya has become a lion.
Ndaikya has turned into a lion.
Ndaikya behaves like a lion.

Disambiguate the sentences below and state the types of ambiguity.
(A) He did not see his chair.
This sentence has got two possible types of ambiguity thus calling for four different interpretations.
If we consider first the word chair, we observe that it may mean.
1. A piece of furniture for sitting on.
2. A person who holds position of being in charge of a meeting. Advanced Learners Dictionary. (6th ed)
This could possibly mean;
Meaning 1. He did not see his seat
Meaning 2. He did not see his chairperson
This is lexical ambiguity as the lexical item chair is a polysem with more than one possible interpretation.
On the other hand if we consider the use of the pronoun his we observe that it does not specify clearly whose chair he did not see. Whether his own chair, or someone else’s chair?
To disambiguate it the following approaches can be used.
The sentence can be re-phrased as in (1) below or the name (instead of a pronoun) should be included if it refers to someone else other than himself as in (2) below.
1. He did not see his own chair.
2. He did not see (Mwakibinga’s) chair.
This is a non-lexical Ambiguity since it is triggered by a pronoun-his.

(B) Is that the mouth?
The lexical item mouth is a polysem with more than one possible interpretation. So to disambiguate it, the items containing the “mouth” should be mentioned to contextualize it, or the alternative words should be used.
The term mouth means;
1. A part of the face.
2. An entrance/opening
3. Of a river – a place where the river joins the sea.
To disambiguate it the following possible interpretations can be used.
1. Is that the mouth of a lion?
2. Is that the mouth of the cave/entrance of the cave?
3. Is that the mouth/end of river Mara?
This is lexical ambiguity since the lexical item “mouth” has got more than one interpretation/meaning.

(C) I slapped him while reading a novel.
The sentence above does not specify who was reading a novel. The suggestion is that, in order to disambiguate it, the subject of the second clause should be included to show clearly who was reading a novel.
This may have the following possible interpretations.
1. I slapped him while I was reading a novel.
2. I slapped him while he was reading a novel.
This is structural ambiguity since the whole sentence structure itself creates ambiguity.

(D) Marry is angry because she is sick.
In this sentence the pronoun “she” creates ambiguity since it does not state clearly who is really sick; whether, Marry herself, or someone else and so Marry is angry.
The suggestion is that, to disambiguate it, the sentence can be re-phrased as in (1) below if it refers to Marry herself or the name of the second person (instead of the pronoun) should be included if it refers to someone else other than Marry as in (2) below.
To disambiguate it we may say;
1. Marry is angry because she {personally} is sick.
2. Marry is angry because (her mother) is sick.
This is a non-lexical ambiguity as it is triggered by the pronoun she.
Any natural language is subject to ambiguity. Ambiguity arises from how the speakers of the language use it in different contexts for communication. That being the case, speakers are advised to select words appropriately if their communication is to be effective. Sometimes ambiguity is obligatory since some words, by nature, have more than one meaning, but the context in which they are used, may help in providing a clue as to which meaning is intended by the speaker and thus clear out the doubt that might arise.
The main issue is to assign semantic roles onto grammatical functions.
These are just parts of the parts played by different referents of the noun phrases in a situation described by a sentence. A noun phrase in a sentence has got its referent, though not all. That referent of NP has a special role to play in a sentence.
We usually assign semantic roles to the argument. {Argument refers to the obligatory elements/entities in a sentence that co-occur with a verb}
E.g. He saw him yesterday.

In generative grammar (in particular Government and binding theory and the Standard Theory of Transformational Grammar), a theta role or θ-role is the formal device for representing syntactic argument structure (the number and type of noun phrases) required syntactically by a particular verb. For example, the verb put requires three arguments (i.e., it is trivalent). The formal mechanism for implementing this requirement is based in theta roles. The verb put is said to "assign" three theta roles. This is coded in a theta grid associated with the lexical entry for the verb. The correspondence between the theta grid and the actual sentence is accomplished by means of a bijective filter on the grammar known as the Theta Criterion. Early conceptions of theta roles include (Fillmore 1968) (Fillmore called theta roles "cases") and (Gruber 1965).
Theta Roles
Theta roles are the names of the participant roles associated with a predicate: the predicate may be a verb, an adjective, a preposition, or a noun. The participant is usually said to be an argument of the predicate.
However semantic roles can be perceived in terms of their generality and specificity. Semantic roles that are perceived in terms of their specificity are usually called VERB SPECIFIC SEMANTIC ROLES.
A verb assigns each argument its own role.
1. E.g. He gave him a book
Giver Receiver sth given
2. She paid him
Payer payee
3. Maiga supervised Bosco
Supervisor supervisee
4. Mwita examined his students
Examiner examinee
The question however is; do we have universality I assigning Verb-Specific Semantic Roles? Or Is it possible that all these role can be nominalized.
E.g. Upendo helped Christina
Helper {which verb-specific semantic role can be assigned to Christina?}
Aaron beat Gema
{ which verb-specific semantic role can be assigned to these NPs?}
There is a lack of Universality in assigning Verb-Specific semantic roles because some of the roles cannot be nominalized.
Because of this difficulty there was a need to find out General Semantic Roles; that can be assigned to the arguments.
There are about 10 general Semantic roles though the semantists do not agree on the maximum number of General semantic roles.
 If the participant is causing something to happen or is in some way responsible for something happening or has conscious control over something happening, the participant is called an agent:
This is the doer of the action realized by a verb in a sentence. It is usually animate. It usually occupies the subject position.
He caught a thief yesterday.
They are beating my son

This is an entity which is in a state/condition or which undergoes the change of state or condition. It usually occupies the subject position as well as Direct Object position. It is usually the primary sufferer of the sentence action.
E.g. He cut John yesterday.
The thieves demolished the house last week
The flowers dried up

Is an entity which is located or possessed or which undergoes the change of location or possession. It usually occupies the subject position as well as the Indirect Object position.
It is in the hall.
Honesta bought a car yesterday
Bosco travelled from Dodoma to Tarime.
This is the end point of transfer of possession. It usually occupies the Subject position as well as the Indirect Object position. It is an entity which receives/benefits from the sentence action.
Bosco gave Mwita some money
Aaron was awarded ten thousands
This is the end point of the change of location.
E.g. The car moved from point A to point B
Water flows from the mountain to the sea
Mwita travelled from Dodoma to Dar-es-Salaam
This is an entity onto/into which the theme is located.
It is in the hole
Gema put a pen on a table
The carcass is on the rock.
This is an entity from which the theme originates. It is usually a complement of a proposition from
In most cases it occupies the subject position.
E.g. He got money from Binagi
The school sends many students to the University
Water flows from the mountain to the sea
This is the entity which feels, perceives or experiences something. It usually occurs with verbs such as; like, want, know, see, think, laugh, be afraid of, be angry, be hungry, tell, taste, smell, hate, frighten.
Experiencer may occur with a percept.
Maswi saw a snake
We heard good news
Jesca smelt cooked rice
Bhoke knows everything
However, experiencer may occupy the Subject position, Direct Object position, and Indirect Object position.

This is an entity which is felt, perceived or experienced.
Joshua saw a snake
Kikwete heard good news
Ghati smelt cooked rice
It usually occupies the Direct Object position as well as the Subject position especially if the construction is in passive form.
The rice was smelt
The parents were angered by their son’s failure

It is an entity with which the action is performed. It is usually the complement of the preposition ‘with’. In few cases it can occupy the Subject position.
A stone hit him badly
Chacha cut Wangwe with a panga
Joe flies with a parachute.
This establishes a link between semantic roles and grammatical function. It examines the association existing between semantic roles and grammatical functions.
Do we have one to one correspondence between Semantic and grammatical function?

In most cases there is no one to one correspondence between semantic roles and grammatical functions. A single grammatical function can have multiple semantic roles while yet some grammatical roles cannot be assigned semantic roles at all. Let’s examine the following cases.
1). A SUBJECT can be realized as;
i. Agent. E.g. He beat him
ii. Patient. Eg. The dog is dead
iii. Recipient. Eg. Mwita got many gifts
iv. Theme. Eg. A cup is on the table
v. Instrument The wind destroyed the downhill settlement.
vi. Experience. Eg. Clara tested sour milk.
vii. Source. E.g. The University produces many graduates each year.
viii. Percept. Eg. The sour milk was tasted
2). DIRECT OBJECT can be realized as;
i. Theme. Eg. Mwakatundu gave Mzambili some money
ii. Patient. Eg. The students killed a thief
iii. Percept. Eg. He smelt cooked rice
iv. Experience. Eg. He frightened her
3). INDIRECT OBJECT. Can be realized as;
i. Recipient. E.g. He gave him ten books.
ii. Experiencer. E.g. She told Amina good news.
Is it possible that all grammatical functions can be associated with semantic roles?.
Adverbials and verbs cannot be assigned semantic roles. The semantic roles are assigned to the Noun Phrases within the adverbial structure.
Some semantic roles are usually in conflict with each other. Each role is struggling in order to assume residence over the other. This happens when one grammatical function in the same syntactic context is realized by more one semantic role, or is realized by two or more competing theta roles.
Eg. 1. Wambura put the book on the table
In the sentence above Locative has got more right to take residence over Goal.
This same NP can take either Locative or all.
Eg.2. Maswi travelled from Tarime to Dodoma.
Is it possible to put a label of Agent/Theme?
Instead of putting two of them only one should be chosen.
Semantic roles usually co-occur with each other. Though other semantic roles do not co-occur with other semantic roles. Those roles which co-occur with each other form something like COLLOCATIONAL STUCTURE/ PATTERN
Locatives, Goals, Recipients, and Sources do co-occur with the Themes. They never co-occur with Patients.
The question of co-occurrence is not confined to adjacent pairs/phenomena. Co-occurrence may apply to other phenomena which are not next to each other in a construction.
Eg. The snake is in the hole
Theme Locative

1. (a). How are verb-specific semantic roles related to theta roles?
(b) There is always one to one correspondence between grammatical function and theta roles. With the aid of relevant examples, examine the validity of this contention.

2. Now work out the Theta roles of the bolded expressions in the following sentences
A) He shifted the luggage from the dining room to the kitchen
B) It is lying on the floor
C) She tasted the sour milk
D) It has fallen down
E) He rewarded him three books
It cut him badly

This theory hypothesizes that words are built up of small components of meaning which are combined differently to form different words. These components of meaning are called SEMANTIC COMPONENTS/BASIC PARTS/SEMANTIC PRIMITIVES/SEMANTIC FEATURES
In other readings they are called semenes, semantic markers. Semene is the smallest component of meaning
In this theory to understand the meaning of a word we need to breakdown/disassemble or to decompose the semantic components/semantic primitives which form that particular word.
The process of decomposing/breaking down/disassembling the semantic components which form the meaning of a word is called LEXICAL DECOMPOSITION/ SEMANTIC DECOMPOSITION/ COMPONENTIAL ANALYSIS.
This is the process of decomposing semantic features of a word in order to know the meaning.
The semantic features/components are shown by a {+ or -} mark to indicate the presence or absence of a certain feature. It is said that we opt the use of [+] or [–] due to the BINARITY PRINCIPLE. In the context of componential analysis, Binarity Principle states that;
The basic parts of the word meaning should be differentiated by the + or – mark to indicate the presence or absence of a certain feature.
The word ‘human’ for example, if it is +human= implies a human. If it is –human implies a non-human being. Also ‘adult’ +adult = adult, -adult = not adult{young}
Male +male= male, -male= female. Etc
The subsequent meaning of individual words can be expressed by the combination of the above features.
Man.. +human Woman +human
+adult +adult
+male -male {+female}

Boy +human girl +human
-adult -adult
+male -male {+female}
In this case the meaning of the word can be understood by a combination of those contrastive elements. It should be born in mind that this is only possible where there is a clear distinction.
E.g. between male/female
Married /unmarried
In other words the theory is essential in contradicting concrete nouns because in concrete nouns the features are common.
1. It does not address the meaning of relative lexical items (it fails to address the meaning of Fuzzy Concepts) some concepts are trans-cultural. Eg. Cup/glass, rich, poverty
2. It does not show how the meaning or more than two items can be shown using the Binarity Principle.
E.g. if you want to semantically contrast 5 types of animals; giraffe, lion, elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo.
All are +animals. If you try to contrast the five items you will be violating the Binarity Principle, which is specifically dealing with two lexical items in terms of their + or –
Gold, silver, iron, copper. All are +metals
3. The theory is ineffective in a sense that it cannot characterize the descriptive names of transitional shades of colours.
E.g. reddish-brown.
What will be the semantic features of each transitional shade of colour. How can reddish-brown be contrasted in terms of + and –
4. The theory has confined itself in contrasting concrete lexical items. It has ignored abstract lexical items.
Qn. Is it possible that abstract lexical items cannot be contrasted by + and – feature?.
Despite having these weaknesses the theory has got the following strengths.
1. It allows an economical characterization of lexical relation as well s sentence relations. The symbols + and – represent a lot of words.
2. It has a linguistic import outside semantics. By recognizing them we can accurately describe a range of syntactic and morphological processes.
It states that:
The truth or falsity of a certain logical proposition depends on the truth or falsity of other statements.
Consider the following examples below.
Daniel is sick.
The statement will be true if the statement ‘Daniel is not sick’ is false.
The statement ‘Daniel is sick” will be false if the statement ‘Daniel is unhealthy” is also false.
From the above examples we can establish two scenarios
1. The truth of a sentence depends on the truth of another sentence. This is mostly captured under the Entailment Sentence Relation, whereby, if the first sentence is true the second sentence must also be true, though the reverse does not necessarily follow.
Nyangwine was in the House of Representatives
Nyangwine is a Member of Parliament.
If the statement “Nyangwine was in the house of representatives” is true, the second sentence will also be true.
2. The falsity of a sentence depends on the falsity of the other sentence.
E.g. Mwita is married.
Mwita’s wife is pregnant.
If sentence one is false, sentence two must also be false.
In this case, we can conclude that in an Entailment Sentence Relation, the truth of the first sentence is the condition for the truth of the 2nd sentence.
Generally, there are certain facts/circumstances/contexts which trigger a particular sentence to be either true or false. These are known as TRUTH CONDITIONS.
{If we have Truth-Conditions can we have falsity conditions?}
If you say a sentence is true there are premises that enable you to reach to that conclusion. And if you say a sentence is false there should be some premises.
These facts/contexts do not refer to the real world but to circumstances which surround a particular situation.
‘A lion is a dangerous animal’
The sentence “A lion is a dangerous animal” will be true if the premises; ‘a lion is an animal’ and ‘a lion is dangerous’ are also true.

Semantists like Lyions (1971) call a sentence being true or false its Truth Value
If a sentence is true its truth value is for it to be true. If the sentence is false its truth value is for it to be false.
TRUTH VALUE generally refers to truth or falsity of a particular concept.
If someone says that ‘X’ is true, for him that is a truth value.
If someone says ‘X’ is false that is truth value to him.
So the truth of the sentence is its Truth Value and the Falsity of a sentence is its Truth Value.
Generally speaking, the Truth-Conditional Theory deals with Logic and Truths. This kind of truth is called Analytical Truth (the truth which is available in a language not the kind of truth obtained from the real world)
The kind of truth obtained from the real world is called Empirical/Synthetic Truth {truth obtained through research and experimentation.}
In a Paraphrase relation, sentences condition each other. (Mutual Conditions). They have the same meaning and in that case they are synonymous.
The statement is invariably true. These are circular statements which do not communicate anything or tell nothing.
E.g. Mwita is a bachelor, he has no wife.
That unmarried girl married to a bachelor
Statement ‘X’ is absurd in that it presupposes a contradiction.
The child’s wife is pregnant.
The orphan’s father is at home.
Statement ‘X’ is inconsistent with statement ‘Y’ if when ‘X’ is true ‘Y’ is false. And if ‘Y’ is true ‘X’ is false.
The sentence ‘He is brilliant’ will be inconsistent with the statement “he failed the exam miserably”
Statement ‘X’ is invariably false.
E.g. ‘An orphan has a father’.
1. More attention has been paid on Declarative sentences, ignoring other types of sentences. E.g. interrogatives
2. It is not concerned with synthetic truth. The factual truth about the conditions which prevail in the real world. It has paid much attention on analytical truth –the truth by the very nature of the language.
Generally speaking the theory is concerned much on logic particularly inductive reasoning


This theory is the reflection of a Transformational Generative Model of Grammar developed by Noam Chomsky –an American Linguist.
In his two books 1957 and 1965 he tried to answer several questions which were left unanswered by the Structuralist Theory or Structuralist Model of STRUCTURAL GRAMMAR
In short the Generative Theory of meaning is a critique to the Structuralist model due to some reasons.
1. The Structualists paid much attention to the grammatical well-formedness of a sentence and did not consider its semantics/meaning. For them the question of semantics was not important. N. Chomsky gives a sentence like “Colourless green ideas slept furiously” to show that a sentence can be grammatically correct and yet does not make sense.
2. The Structuralist Model paid much attention to the surface-structure of a sentence and not consider the deep structure of the sentence.
3. The structuralists failed to account for the question of ambiguities in sentences simply because this thing is related to/is at the level of meaning.
On the other hand Chomsky in his Theory of Transformational Generative Model of Grammar considered the relation between form and meaning as crucial component for the generation of sentences which are grammatical and meaningful.
He also considered both deep and surface-structures as essential for generation of meaning. He said that the surface-structures were the results of the work done by different Transformational rules/surgical operations.
NOTE: At first Chomsky was a Structuralist. In his book of 1957 “Syntactic Structures” he paid much attention to grammatical well-formedness of the sentence and did not consider the question of semantics, but later on he realized that there is a need/necessity for considering the relationship between form and meaning {syntax and semantics} in order to realize meaning of a sentence. That’s why in his book of 1965 “Aspects of the Theory of Syntax” he tried to explain the relationship that exists between Syntax and Semantics. He said that one cannot separate Syntax from Semantics because the two are closely related and inseparable.
DEEP STRUCTURE. {Kernel Structure/ Basic Structure}
Deep structure deals with sentences that are at the underlying level. Sentences which are not yet affected by the transformational rules/surgical operations. This basic/Kernel structure may be pointed out in that it is simple, assertive, declarative, and active in form. Syal & Jindal (2007:123)
E.g. John is playing football
I wrote a letter
You spoke the truth.
SURFACE STRUCTRE {Non-Kernel Structure/Non-Basic Structure}
These are sentences which have been affected by the Transformational rules/Surgical Operations. These include all sentences which are Interrogative, Negative, Passive, Complex, and Compound.
Transformational Rules/Surgical Operations
Are the rules which derive surface structure from deep structure/or derive deep structure to surface structure.

1. Passivisation Rules
2. Interrogative Rules
3. Negative Rules
4. Affix-switch Rule
5. Do-Support Rule
6. Deletion Rule
 A letter was written {SS}
Someone wrote a letter {DS}
 A car was bought by him {SS}
He bought something (a car) {DS}
 Why did you push him? {SS}
You pushed him for some reasons {DS}
 Where did you stay last night? {SS}
You stayed somewhere last night. {DS}

 Is he sleeping? {SS}
He is sleeping {DS}
 Could you repeat the question? {SS}
You could repeat the question {DS}
 This rule seems to be similar to Affix-switch rule but here we mostly consider the use of the auxiliary ‘do’
 Did John see her? {SS}
John saw her. {DS}
 Do you know him?{SS}
You know him. {DS}
 I will not go {SS}
I will go {DS}
 Didn’t he play the match? {SS}
He played the match {DS}
 Came yesterday. {SS}
He came yesterday {DS}
 Met him on the way. {SS}
I met him on the way {DS}

TG rules are generative in a sense that with the help of the TG rules one can produce any number of possible sentences in the language.
Generally, The Generative Transformation Theory is based on the notion that the Deep-structure of a sentence and the meaning of words/lexical items used in that structure represent the total meaning of a sentence. At the level of Deep-Structure lexical items are stringed together or with the aid of SELECTIONAL RESTRICTIONS. {SR}
 Are the rules which enable lexical items to select/choose other lexical item to co-occur with; so as to produce grammatical and meaningful syntactic structures. Or
 Are the rules regarding the permissible combinations of lexical items in the language. These guide the co-occurrence of lexical items. They prevent the generation of Anomalous Sentences. These rules also apply to the grammatical items. They permit the possible sequencing of grammatical items with relation to the lexical items.
Furthermore, at the deep-structure level, Selectional Restrictions may determine the argument structure of the verb. E.g. kill.
*He killed------ {it requires the object}
Laugh as intransitive verb it doesn’t require a complement NP (argument)
*He laughed him
He laughed at him
*He put {what}
*He put a pen {where}
He put a pen in the bag
*He died him {die does not require an object}
Selectional restrictions at the Deep-structure level make a rule that all these transitivity irregularities are avoided so as to produce grammatical and meaningful sentences.
The semantic information contained in the lexical items determines their role in the sentence.
E.g. talk, dream, laugh etc
All these lexical items contain the +human subjects and cannot occur with –human subjects.
*The lion laughed yesterday.
*The trees are talking in low voices.
Selectional Restrictions do this in order to ensure that there is semantic compatibility. i.e. co-occurrence of semantically compatible lexical items. They may impose semantic restrictions to the lexical items which are not compatible and thus cannot co-occur.
1. The specific properties of each lexical item along with the knowledge of rules, regarding the selection of items are present in the internalized lexicon or dictionary of each native speaker.
2. The Generative Theory is very useful in unfolding the complex fundamentals of semantics. If we concentrated on semantics alone we couldn’t be able to unfold issues like ambiguities.
3. The theory has further shown that the native speakers’ linguistic competence can enable him to produce an unlimited number of sentences.
4. The theory reveals that Surface Structures are the manifestations of the Deep Structures done by the Transformational rules or Surgical Operations.

In recent years, some theories have been developed which deal with meanings of words and sentences not isolated entities but as related to situations of occurrence and use. These contextual theories of meaning are theories which try to study contextual meaning. They are:

1. Field Theory of Meaning
2. Distributional Approach
3. Operational/Functional Approach

It was developed in Europe by an outstanding scholar by the name of Trier. It explains the vocabulary/lexicon of language as a system of interrelated networks/semantic fields.

Words which are related may belong to the same semantic field/network
 Stool, chair, sofa, table = FURNITURE
 Fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, seedlings, grow, bloom= PLANT
 Library, school, college, teachers, learners, books =EDUCATION
The concept of interrelated networks may further be explained by collocation; since collocated items are those which habitually co-occur with other items.
E.g. reading=written materials
Letters = writings
Thus the associative field of word if formed by an intricate network of association on the basis of similarity, contiguity, sensation, name collocation etc. these associations may also be identified by linguistic methods by collecting the most obvious synonyms and antonyms of a word as well as words similar in sound and in sense and those which enter into the same habitual associations.
It holds that when we analyze the meaning of words or sentences the set of features from the external world or contexts of situation becomes relevant.
For example; who is the speaker?
Who is the hearer?
What is the role of each in relationship?
What situation they are in?
- The theory studies meaning or concept as a set of operations. The real meaning of the word is understood according to its function or the real meaning of the word can be found by observing what a man does with it and not what he says about it.
- The meaning of the word is its use in the language and we call it the SUBSTITUTION METHOD.
- Firth (1967) defined the word as “lexical substitution counter”. So words are to be studied on the functional level in the contexts they occur. The theory deals with meaning in speech, the referential and meaning in language. It establishes a communicative relationship between the speaker and the hearer.
- According to Firth, language is only meaningful in the context of situation. The idea becomes the link between syntax and meaning in context.
- Grammaticality is linked to appropriacy since the meaning of the sentence is understood according to the real world context and the nature of participants.
E.g. ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’. {If it’s not raining, the sentence will be meaningless}
- Context of situation refers to the context of discourse {the environment where the particular sentence is used}
- According to this theory, the meaning of the word is to be understood as a range of its occurrences in the sentence consisting other words. We cannot find two words in a language sharing exactly the same lexical environment. {distribution}
- Thus this approach studies meaning as Syntagmatic {collocations} and paradigmatic (sets) relations.
- Paradigmatic relations deal with lexical meaning of the words of the same lexical set. Lexical meaning means the dictionary meaning.
- It studies meaning as Syntagmatic relation where the meaning of the word is understood in relation with other words of a sentence on the basis of statistical methods and computer techniques {the mechanical collection and sorting of data}
1. Using the Generative Theory of meaning , account for the inadmissibility of the following syntactic constructions;
a. *She ate a rock
b. *Colourless green ideas slept furiously.
c. *They have seen.
2. (a).How does Deep structure differ from Surface structure?
(b) Account for the following Surface structures.
(i). I met him when going to school
(ii). Could he have seen him?
3. (a) What is semantic decomposition? How can it help you establish the meaning of a particular lexical item?
(b) The Componential Theory is absolutely effective in addressing the question of lexical meaning. What is your position in this argument?

- All natural languages change overtime though the change is not noticed / seen. Changes in a language are bound to occur as changes are natural. Language is a manifestation of human life/behavior and therefore it cannot be static/fixed.
- Change is of no doubt a low but a sure process. Language change sometimes goes unknowingly but it becomes prominent after a long period of time.
- Most languages do change due to different events/occasions. Some of language change may be linked to some political and economic events such as wars, invasions, migration, and other upheavals.
- Language change is natural and language seems to be in a state of continuous transition because of its cultural transmission from one generation to the next. In this case each generation has to find out the way of learning that particular language, or they have to re-create that language in order to conform to their speech community. In doing so, a person can pick some elements exactly or approximately. This brings some sort of language change.
- Sometimes there is a desire to sound differently from the previous generation. Mostly, language change involves change in grammar, of that particular language.
These changes are morphological, syntactical, semantic, and phonological items of grammar.

This happens when speakers of one language frequently interact with speakers of another language. Language contact can be necessitated by language neighbourhood{one language neighbouring another}, colonialism, trade activities etc. where there is contact two things are expected.
1. Powerful Language
2. Less powerful language.
- The powerful language is reflected by the economic and political power of its users. Wherever there is contact, borrowing is inevitable.
Here three scenarios are considered:
a) If language ‘X’ is politically stronger than language ‘Y’ the likelihood is for language ‘Y’ to borrow heavily from language ‘X’. This is called Superstratum Influence.
‘Superstratum Influence’ is the influence of a politically or culturally dominant language on another language in an area. E.g. The influence of the Norman French on English during the Middle English period. English Language borrowed extensively from French language.
b) If a politically dominant language comes into contact with a less politically dominant language, and a dominant language tends to borrow from a less dominant language the influence is known as Substratum Influence.
‘Substratum influence’ can technically be defined as; the influence of less political and economical dominant language on a more dominant one. E.g. during colonialism, European languages had to borrow from the indigenous languages.
c) Languages having the equal social, political and economic status tend to borrow from each other. This is called Adstratum Influence. Adstratum Influence is the mutual influence of two equally dominant languages on each other.
Where there is language contact the mostly affected language component is the lexicon/vocabulary of the language though there may be minor changes in terms of phonological, grammatical and semantic domains.

This involves a generalization of regularity on the basis of the influence that, if elements are alike in some aspects, they should be alike in others as well. Sometimes called errors of overgeneralization. E.g. if one generalizes that the plural formation of any English noun is by adding –s this will result to language change since the irregular cases will be forgotten.
Chief –chiefs
Thief –*thiefs.
Ring –rung
Bring –*brung.

This involves an attempt to attribute a compound word or a root + affix structure –a word that was originally not broken down into its component morphemes.
E.g. Hamburger hum+burger.
Also bringing a word to a particular analysis that was not there. E.g. Formally, Hamburger was not segmentable but with time it was segmented into its discrete morphemes.

Speakers find difficulties in articulating some words and therefore tend to struggle in order to ease/simplify articulation of that word. Mostly they opt for two mechanisms.
a. Deleting a consonant in a consonant cluster
Eg Fifths /fɪf s/ -- /fɪfs/
b. Inserting a vowel within the consonant cluster.
Athlete /æ ǝli:t/

Other linguistic systems do allow their users to pronounce words as they are written but others do not. English for example forbids its speakers to pronounce the words as they are written, while in Kiswahili most words are pronounced the way they are written.
For that case if a Swahili speaker is learning English the most severe problem will be pronunciation since in Kiswahili there is one to one correspondence between spelling and pronunciation while in English there is no.
Language change can be viewed into two.

1. Diachronic Linguistic Change
2. Synchronic {Descriptive}Language Change
This refers to the change of meaning across history/ages. The variation in the meaning of words from one point of time to another. {One historical period to another}
Diachronic changes are usually continuous. The English Language we use today has also undergone diachronic sound changes. Historically English has undergone through three periods
{ From Old English to Present}

Although change in the word meaning takes place continually in all languages words rarely jump from one meaning to unrelated one {another}. Typically the change of the word meaning goes step-by-step and involves one of the following.

It is the process in which the meaning of the word becomes more general or more inclusive than its historical earlier meaning. In other words, it means that the word carries its original meaning and more other meanings.
Stewart & Vaillet (2001) say that extension in meaning occurs when a set of appropriate contexts/referents for a word increases. This is frequently the result of generalizing from the specific case to the class of which the specific case is a member.

Here are some of the examples.
Holiday A day of religious significance from the word (holy day) Any day on which people do not have to work
Bird A small fowl. Today it refers to any feathered vertebrate with a beak.
Barn A place to store barley or bricks Any agricultural building where crops are stored
Dog (from OE docga) In OE it referred to a particular breed of dog It refers to a whole class.
Aunt Originally meant only father’s sister Today it can be mother’s, or father’s sister, Uncle’s wife etc
Salary Originally a soldiers allotment of salt --> Soldiers wages --> wages in general.

This is the process in which the meaning of the word becomes less general/ less inclusive than its original meaning. For Stewart & Vaillet reduction in meaning occurs when a set of appropriate contexts/referents for a word decreases. Historically speaking, this is less common as compared to extension of meaning, though it occurs fairly frequently.

Examples of this phenomenon are:
Word Original meaning (General) Current meaning (Reduced)
OE (hund) MoE Hound Referred to >dogs in general Today it has been restricted to a particular specie of dog.( a dog used for hunting)
Meat {OE mete} Originally meant >food Today it means a particular flesh of animal that we eat
Fowl(fugol) Originally meant >any bird Refers to only domesticated birds used to produce meat/eggs
Girl {MdE} >Young people of either sex Refers only to female
Worm Referred to >any crawling creature Refers to a particular small animal(insect) with a long narrow soft body without arms, legs or bones:
Skyline Originally > horizon in general Particular horizon –one in which the outlines of hills, buildings, or other structures appear.
Starve Originally meant >Die to (cause to) become very weak or die because there is not enough food to eat >Die of hunger

This is the situation where by the meaning of the word becomes more positive/more favourable than its historical meaning. It occurs when a word takes on somewhat grander connotations over time. Ibid (410)
Examples explaining this case are:
A word Original meaning (somewhat negative) Current meaning (somewhat positive)
Knight {OE cniht or cneoht} Youth/military follower relatively powerless and unimportant people. a man given a rank of honour by a British king or queen because of his special achievements, and who has the right to be called 'Sir', or (in the past) a man of high social position trained to fight as a soldier on a horse:
Pretty Originally (OE) meant tricky, sly, cunning pleasant to look at, or (especially of girls or women or things connected with them) attractive or charming in a delicate way
Chivalrous It was synonymous to Warlike It means fairness, generosity, honor (A chivalrous man is polite, honourable and kind towards women)
Squire In {MdE} referred to a knight’s attendant, the person who held his shield and armor for him in England, a man who owned most of the land around a village
Fond {MdE ppt of fonnen} To be foolish. having a great liking for someone or something:
Nice In Middle English, the word nice usually had the meaning “foolish,” and sometimes “shy,” but the modern meaning is “pleasant”

The situation where by the meaning of the word becomes negative or less favourable.
It occurs when a word acquires a more pejorative meaning over time. Ibid.
A word Original meaning (positive) Current meaning (pejorative)
Silly In MdE it meant happy, blessed, innocent, prosperous Today it means foolish, absurd, inane
Lust In OE it simply meant >pleasure to feel strong sexual desire for someone you are not having a sexual relationship with (sinful desire)
{MdE} wenche(l) wench In MdE it meant Female child, later ‘female servant’. A wanton woman {prostitute} a lewd female. ‘woman of a low social class’
Madam Polite form of address to a woman It also means a woman who is in charge of a group of prostitutes who live or work in the same house
hussy Used to mean ‘housewife.’ a woman or girl who is sexually immoral: (a lewd or brazen woman)

Is an initial stage of semantic shift. It is therefore a process in which a word meaning begins to lose some aspects of its original meaning.
For example
the word Original meaning Meaning today
Crucify Originally meant to kill by nailing to the cross. To cause pain or to severely punish or damage someone or something:
Wreak Punish or avenge
[ Old English wrecan "drive out"]
to cause something to happen in a violent and often uncontrolled way

This is the process in which the word loses some aspects of its original/former meaning taking on a partially new but related meaning.
E.g. the word ‘bead’ originally meant ‘prayer’ but today it means ‘prayer beads’ or other kind of birds.
1. (a). Language seems to be in a state of continual transition because of its cultural transmission from one generation to the next. Elucidate.
(b). Language change is manifested in all linguistic phenomena. Describe some aspects of Lexical semantic change with plenty of examples.
2. How does Diachronic Semantic change (DSC) differ from Synchronic Semantic Change (SSC)


Cruse, A (2004) Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics. New
York: Oxford University Press.
Crystal, D. (1987). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of English Language. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Fromkin et al (2007) An Introduction to Language. 8th ed. USA: Michael Rosenberg
O’Grady et al (1997) Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction: London: St. Martin’s Press
Stewart and Vaillet. (2001) Language Files: Materials for An Introduction to Language and
Linguistics: Columbus: Ohio State University Press
Syal and Jindal (2007). An Introduction to Linguistics: Language Grammar and Semantics.
2nd ed. New Delhi: Asoke K, Ghosh, Prentice-Hall of India Private Limited

Other Readings
Chomsky, N. (1957) Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton
Chomsky, N (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Firth, J. R (1957) Papers in Linguistics1934-1951. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Leech, G. N (1981) Semantics. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Lyons, J (1970). New Horizons in Linguistics. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Ogden, C.R., and Richards, I. A (1923). The Meaning of Meaning. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Robins, R.H., (1967) General Linguistics: An Introductory Survey. London: Longman.

The end of the course

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1 comment:

  1. Good job.. that is amazing and reader friendly