In semantics, the message conveyed by words, sentences, and symbols in a context. See also:
From the Old English, "to tell of"
Examples and Observations:
- "It may justly be urged that, properly speaking, what alone has meaning is a sentence. Of course, we can speak quite properly of, for example, 'looking up the meaning of a word' in a dictionary. Nevertheless, it appears that the sense in which a word or phrase 'has a meaning' is derivative from the sense in which a sentence 'has a meaning': to say a word or phrase 'has a meaning' is to say that there are sentences in which it occurs which 'have meanings'; and to know the meaning which the word or phrase has, is to know the meanings of sentences in which it occurs. All the dictionary can do when we 'look up the meaning of a word' is to suggest aids to the understanding of sentences in which it occurs. Hence it appears correct to say that what 'has meaning' in the primary sense is the sentence."
(John L. Austin, "The Meaning of a Word." Philosophical Papers, 3rd ed., edited by J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock. Oxford Univ. Press, 1990)
- "There can't be a single answer to the question 'Are meanings in the world or in the head?' because the division of labor between sense and reference is very different for different kinds of words. With a word like this or that, the sense by itself is useless in picking out the referent; it all depends on what is in the environs at the time and place that a person utters it. . . . Linguists call them deictic terms . . .. Other examples are here, there, you, me, now, and then.
"At the other extreme are words that refer to whatever we say they mean when we stipulate their meanings in a system of rules. At least in theory, you don't have to go out into the world with your eyes peeled to know what a touchdown is, or a member of parliament, or a dollar, or an American citizen, or GO in Monopoly, because their meaning is laid down exactly by the rules and regulations of a game or system. These are sometimes called nominal kinds--kinds of things that are picked out only by how we decide to name them."
(Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought. Viking 2007)
- "It has been generally assumed that we have to understand two types of meaning to understand what the speaker means by uttering a sentence. . . . A sentence expresses a more or less complete propositional content, which is semantic meaning, and extra pragmatic meaning comes from a particular context in which the sentence is uttered."
(Etsuko Oishi, "Semantic Meaning and Four Types of Speech Act." Perspectives on Dialogue in the New Millennium, ed. P. Kühnlein et al. John Benjamins, 2003)
Also Known As: lexical meaning, semantic meaning