Chapter 5 Word Meaning

1.The meaning of "meaning"

1.1 Reference  

    Reference is the conventional or arbitrary relationship between language and the world. Part of the word meaning is the reference.

1.2 Concept

Though meaning and concept are closely related, they belong to different categories: Concept is the result of human cognition while meaning is the result of language use.

1.3 Sense

Sense denotes the intrinsic semantic relationship inside the language. it is not concerned with the connection between words and what these words indicate in the word. The sense of an expression is its place in a system of semantic relationships with other expressions in the language.


        Motivation refers to the connection between the linguistic symbol and its meaning.Most words are non-motivated.

2.1. Onomatopoeic motivation

  The sounds of some words suggest their meanings, because they are created by imitating the natural sounds. But these onomatopoeic words are also largely conventional, because different languages may use different forms to indicate these sounds.

2.2 Semantic motivation

  Semantic motivation explains the relationships between the literal sense and the figurative sense through associations.

2.3 Etymological motivation

  Etymological motivation means that the meanings of words can be explained with reference to etymological information. Very often, the history of the word can explain why a form has acquired a particular meaning.

2.4 Morphological motivation

  Morphological motivation tries to establish the connection of meaning of the word to its form from morphological point of view. Sometimes, we can work out the meaning of a word if we know the meaning of the morphemes that constitute that word.                          

3.Types of meaning

 3.1 Grammatical meaning

  Grammatical meaning refers to that part of meaning which indicates grammatical relationships or functions, such as tense meaning, singular meaning, etc.. Words with the similar lexical meaning can have different grammatical meanings, and words with different lexical meanings can have the same grammatical meaning. Grammatical meaning is in use.

3.2 Lexical meaning

  Lexical meaning is composed of conceptual meaning and associative meaning. Lexical meaning is relatively stable.

3.2.1 Conceptual meaning

  Conceptual meaning is often described as dictionary meaning or literal meaning of a word. It is the core of the meaning of a word. It is relatively constant and stable, because it is the meaning agreed upon by all the members of the same speech community.

3.2.2 Associative meaning
  Associative meaning is that part of meaning which has been supplemented to the conceptual meaning. It is the meaning which arises of the associations a word acquires. It is open-ended, unstable and indeterminate, because it varies with culture, time, place, class, individual experiences, etc. Associative meaning includes connotative, stylistic, affective and collocative meanings.

1)Connotative meaning

  Connotative meaning is the communicative value an expression has by virtue of what it refers to, over and above its purely conceptual content. Connotations are apt to vary from age to age and from society to society. Talking about connotation is in fact talking about the real world experience one associates with an expression when one uses or hears it.

2)Stylistic meaning

  Language use can be formal, neutral and casual in style. The stylistic features of words, which make words appropriate for appropriate situations, constitute stylistic meanings of words.

3) Affective meaning    
  Affective meaning refers to that part of meaning which conveys emotions and attitudes of a language user. Sometimes affective meanings are brought out only in context.

4)Collocative meaning

  Collocative meaning consists of the associations a word acquires on account of the meanings of words which tend to occur in its environment. In other words, it is that part of the word-meaning suggested by the words that go before or come after a word in question.