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Theory of reference. Referential functions of the word.

Ranez.Ru > Помощь в учебе абитуриентам и студентам > Студенту > Английский язык > Лексикология >

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Reference (referential content) – is derived from reality and depend on how the conceptual space (a given referential area) is covered by a lexical item. R. is referring – linkage of a linguistic unit with a non-linguistic entity to which it serves a name. This linkage can be of a different nature and is reflected in discrimination between specific referential functions /usage of words:

  • - existential;
  • - identifying;
  • - non-referential (usage);
  • - direct address to the communicant.

Referent – 1) the object of thought correlated with a certain linguistic expression, the element of objective reality as reflected in our minds and viewed as the content regularly correlated with certain expression, an object of our experience, a fact of the outer world which is encompassed by a given symbol. In this sense r. can be equated terminologically with denotatum, but the two terms can be distinguished as well in the following way: denotatum means a class of objects, to which a concept of a class would be a corresponding conceptualisation on the cognitive level 2) while r. would mean a discrete representative of a class of denotata, to which a mental referent would correspond on the level of conceptualisation.

Referential meaning – 1) equivalent to denotation-1 – part of the word's semantics which involves the relationship between a linguistic unit (a lexical item) and the non-linguistic entities to which it refers; 2) type of meaning actualised by lexical items when they denote a single representative of a class of denotata/referents, its cognitive counterpart being a mental referent (a thought / a conceptualised image of a single referent) as opposed to concepts of a class (reflected in denotational meaning) and concept of a property/feature (reflected by significative meaning); actualised primarily by proper names and common names supported by the individualising (specifying) function of the articles.

'Lexicentric' approach to meaning – meaning is treated as appearing from relations between the referent denoted by a designator and the sign which serves the designator for the referent. Hence another term – referential approach to meaning
Textocentric approach to meaning – functional approach to meaning which centres the links between the sign and other signs in a linear sequence as primary source for understanding what the word means.

Reference- the linkage of a linguistic unit with a non-linguistic entity to which it serves a name.

The reference is that non-direct link which connects a name and the entity in the outer world.

The word is a symbolic substitute for a certain referent.

Referent shall function as a m function of the word.

Different words perform this function differently:
 1. Pronounce

He, his    this, that
     She, her                             
They indicate, point out, but there is no constant referent for them (different objects each time)
Such words- deictic elements of the language, because they can be applied to any referent.
Linguistics consider then to be signs indexes.

2. Proper names.
Their reference is also unique, their content doesn’t depend on the conditions of the action communication, it doesn’t characterize an object.

3. Prepositions.
They refer to relationship between objects, but the objects are each time different.

4. Verbs.
They have meaning, but they are devoid of reference.

Extensional meaning – referential applicability of a name; the scope of its reference.

Generalization of meaning – extension of semantic capacity of a word, with the increase in referential applicability of the word. when a specific/hyponymic term becomes generic/hypernymic, either ousting the previously existing lexeme of this status or filling out the lexical gap; same as semantic extension, broadening/widening of meaning, opp. to narrowing, specification. E.g. many religious terms (doctrine, novice, office) have taken a more general, secular range of meanings.

Intentional (component of) meaning – the core part of lexical meaning in Prof.Nikitin's semantic theory. Represents a complex of essential semantic characteristics which refer to the description of denotata and referents named by the word. Semantic nucleus of lexical meaning; structured unity of semantic features, which constitute this type of referents. I.c. is obligatory, as these features are obligatory to the referents of this class. Intentional characteristics can imply (to this or that extent) other characteristics which belong to the periphery of the word's informational potential.

Analytical or referential definition of meaning. (lexicentric)

They seek to find the essence of meaning establishing the interdependence between words of the objects or phenomena they denote . The best known analytical model of meaning is the so-called “basic triangle”.

Ranez.Ru: basic triangle

They are connected directly that means that if we hear a sound-form a certain idea arises in our mind & the idea brings out a certain referent that exists in the reality . But the sound-form & the referent are connected indirectly because there are no objects or phenomena in the reality that predict a certain sound-form , that need to be named by a certain sequence of sounds . The strongest point in the approach is an attempt to link the notion of meaning with the process of naming the objects , processes or phenomena of concrete reality . The analytical definitions of meaning are usually criticized on the grounds that they cannot be applied to sentences .

e. g. The sentence “ I like to read long novels “ does not express single notion , it represents composites of notions specifying the relations between them .

The referential definition of meaning can hardly be applied to semantic additions that come to the surface in the process of communication .

e. g. “That’s very clever “ may mean different sorts of things including that it is not clever at all .

It has also been stated that the referential approach fails to account for that fact that one word may denote different objects & phenomena . That is the case of polysemy . On the other hand one & the same object may be denoted by different words & that is the case of synonymy .

Functional or contextual Definitions of meaning. (textocentric)

Proceeding from the assumptions that the true meaning of a word is to be found by observing what a man does with it not what he says about it , the proponents of functional approach to meaning define it as the use of the word in the language . It has been suggested that the meaning of a word is revealed by substituting different contexts .

e. g. The meaning of the word cat may be singled out of contexts:

____________ catch mice.
I bought fish for my _____.

and similar sentences.

To get a better insight in to the semantics of a word it is necessary to analyze as many contexts in which it is realized as possible. The question arises – when to stop collecting different contexts & what amount of material is sufficient to make a reliable conclusion about the meaning of a word ? In practice a scholar is guided by intuition which amount to the previous knowledge of the notions the given word denotes. Besides , there are contexts which are so infrequent that they can hardly be registered & quite obviously they have never been met by the speakers of the given language. Nevertheless being presented with a context a native speaker proceeds not from a list of possible contexts but from something  else. The functional approach to meaning is important because it emphasizes the fact that words are seldom if ever used in isolation & thus the meaning of a word is revealed only when it is realized in a context. But on the whole the functional approach may be described as a complimentary , additional to the referential one.

Прислала Алена Жильцова


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