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BA English Language and Chinese / Course details
Year of entry: 2024
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Course unit details:
Study of Meaning
|Available as a free choice unit?
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.
This unit is a prerequisite for LELA20281 Semantics and LELA20292 Pragmatics.
The course covers the following areas: The Introduction situates the study of meaning within linguistics and introduces the conceptual foundations of the study of meaning, most notably the principle of compositionality, the distinction between object and meta language, and the relationship between language, the world, and the mind. Students will then be introduced to relations between sentences such as entailment, synonymy, tautology, and contradiction and basic set theory as a tool for investigating the meaning of the major lexical categories of English. This approach will be compared with more cognitive approaches to the study of meaning such as prototype theory.
Students will be introduced to phenomena such as referential and quantificational noun phrases, negative polarity items, context dependency, and vagueness, lexical and structural ambiguity, as well as metaphor and metonymy as cognitive processes for meaning extensions.
Teaching and learning methods
One 2hr lecture per week plus 1hr seminar per week
E-Learning: All course material, including lecture slides, exercise sheets, and links to electronically available readings, and course and assessment information will be made available on Blackboard. Students will be able to discuss all aspects of the course with their peers and the lecturer on the discussion board
Knowledge and understanding
Students will develop intellectual skills of:
- Accuracy of analysis
- Distinguishing between different dimensions of meaning
- Identifying logical relations between sentences.
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
- Awareness of cross-linguistic differences
- 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.
Formative or Summative
Two assignments, consisting of a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions
25% x 2 = 50%
Formative or Summative
Comments on students’ solutions to seminar exercises and their contribution to the seminar discussions
Feedback during individual consultation hours
Formative and summative
Written feedback on assignments and exams
- 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).
|Scheduled activity hours
|Assessment written exam
|Independent study hours