Half of a word

Semantics word meaning and sentence meaning

2.3Word senses and taxonomies

Word senses

As cultures develop, they create or learn about new categories of things, for example, tools, and they then have the need to refer to these new things. Where might the words for the new categories come from?

We have seen that words — common nouns — are associated with categories of things. I will refer to those categories that make up the meanings of words as semantic categories. As already noted, people also have plenty of categories that have no words associated with them. In fact which categories have labels varies from person to person and from language to language, as we will see soon. One way to summarize what we've discussed so far is shown in the figure below. So far the situation I've described looks like the following:

In the figure the word form is connected to the word's meaning, a semantic category, by an arrow that I will use to indicate a meaning relation. The arrow has two heads because a Speaker can get from a semantic category to a word form, and a Hearer can get from a word form to the word's meaning. You should already know that the figure does not correspond to everyone's view of what word meaning is because what I'm calling the "semantic category" could be distributed in various ways rather than localized as it appears here.

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