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By Alan Cruse

This easy-to-use advisor illuminates key options and phrases in semantics and pragmatics and the research of which means because it is conveyed via language.

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For instance, the default meaning of the verb see is ‘to have a visual experience (of)’, although in particular contexts it can have other meanings, as in I see what you mean, See what you can do, I think you should see a doctor. The default meaning of a polysemous word is not necessarily the most frequently occurring meaning, but it is usually felt to be the most basic. definite description This is a sub-type of definite referring expression. The term usually denotes a noun phrase which refers to a definite entity (or group of entities), and which contains descriptive information necessary to A GLOSSARY OF SEMANTICS AND PRAGMATICS 43 identify the entity.

They act as constraints on relevance. ) discrete vs continuous signs Continuous signs can vary in a gradual way along at least one dimension, and each 52 A GLOSSARY OF SEMANTICS AND PRAGMATICS perceptible change entails a meaning change. Take the case of a smile. This can vary in ‘breadth’ from the merest hint of a smile to a broad grin, and all the intermediate stages indicate a particular degree of amusement (or whatever). The same is true of how loudly we shout when we say Ouch! Discrete signs can only vary in separate jumps, and intermediate forms (if they exist) do not have intermediate meaning.

Most linguistic signs (all words) are discrete in this sense. One can move in a way that gradually changes from a walk into a run, but one cannot gradually change the word walk into the word run (and even if we could, the resulting intermediate stages would not designate something between a run and a walk). displacement This is one of the key features distinguishing human language from, for instance, animal communication. It is the ability to speak about things that are not present (There are no horses here) and about times and places other than the ‘here and now’ (I met her last summer in New York), as well as about hypothetical entities and events.

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