BA English Language and German

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Study of Meaning

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA10332
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit will provide an introduction to the conceptual, empirical and formal foundations of the study of meaning. We will look at how sentence meaning is composed from the meanings of the words it contains and how it relates to the situations in the world it describes. We will learn about the structure of the lexicon, lexical meaning relations, and the role of metaphor and metonymy in meaning extension. In addition, we will look at how context contributes to the resolution of lexical and structural ambiguity and the reduction of vagueness. Students will also be introduced to empirical approaches to the study of meaning.


The course unit aims to increase students’ awareness of the complexity of analysing the meanings of lexical items and complex expressions, of cross-linguistic differences, and of methods of analysis in the field of semantics. It will serve as a foundation for more advanced study of semantics and pragmatics.

Knowledge and understanding

Students will gain a detailed knowledge and understanding of the following essential semantic notions: (i) dimensions of meaning, (ii) compositionality, (iii) lexical meaning relations, (iv) ambiguity and vagueness,and (iv) the use of set theory in the study of meaning.

Intellectual skills

Students will develop intellectual skills of:
  • accuracy of analysis,
  • distinguishing between different dimensions of meaning, and
  • identifying logical relations between sentences

Practical skills

Students will develop practical skills of:
  • identifying different types of meaning in texts
  • using different sources of data,
  • providing concise and precise argumentation orally and in writing.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Students will develop transferable skills of:
  • awareness of the communicative impact of word choice and choice of expressions,
  • argumentation using empirical evidence, and
  • awareness of cross-linguistic differences.

Employability skills

The ability to discuss meaning differences between individual words and between utterances is relevant to a range of professions including language teaching, speech and language therapy, law, journalism, and any other career involving written texts, spoken argumentation, or intercultural communication. The analytical and problem solving skills developed in this class are a life skill that will be useful in any job.

Assessment methods

Two assignments,  consisting of a mixture of multiple choice and problem sets. 2 x 25% = 50%
Written exam w/ multiple choice and definition questions, problem sets.  50%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Feedback during individual consultation hours

Formative and Summative

Written feedback on assignments and exams

Formative and Summative



Recommended reading

- Nick Riemer (2010),Introducing Semantics.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

- James R. Hurford, Brendan Heasley & Michael B. Smith (2007), Semantics:  A Coursebook, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

- Sebastian Löbner (2013), Understanding Semantics, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge).  

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Vera Hohaus Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Recommended for the following Year 2 course units:

-LELA20281 “Semantics: The Composition of Meaning”

- LELA20292 “Pragmatics: Meaning, Context and Interaction”

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