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Lexical Semantics (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics)

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521276436
ISBN-10: 0521276438
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From the Back Cover

Lexical Semantics is about the meaning of words. Although obviously a central concern of linguistics, the semantic behavior of words has been unduly neglected in the current literature, which has tended to emphasize sentential semantics and its relation to formal systems of logic.

Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics
  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 26, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521276438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521276436
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,137,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
A mature science, like Physics, has a panoply of formalisms, apparati, and methods for making epistemic progress. But in a newer science, like semantics, how do you even get off the ground?

Cruse here provides a marvelous exposition of the methods employed by semanticists, and some results obtainable from them. His intellectual honesty is such that he never claims more for them than what is warrented--he never tried to make too much stew from one oyster. There are vast areas of semantics and linguistics which just can't be formalized. But Cruse here shows us how at least to get started.

The approach he describes is one he calls a "contextual" approach--"the semantic properties of a lexical item are fully reflected in appropriate aspects of the relations it contracts with actual and potential contexts". Astute readers will note the perhaps surprising agreement here between Cruse and Quinian Holism. To get a grip on the meaning of a word, the best way is to systematically examing sentences which contain that word, and see if the sentences seem intuitively "wrong" somehow or "right".

For example, it tells us something about the meaning of the word "light" that the sentnece "It was too light for me to lift" seems wrong somehow. Certain readers might at first consider this intuition-based method to be hopelessly unscientific, but as Cruse points out, every measurement, at some point, depends upon human judgements--e.g. when measuring temperature, you have to judge which line on the thermometer is closest to the mercury. Indeed, that is what a measuring device does--makes quantities easier to make judment calls about. A great insight. Cruse developes analogous "measuring instruments" to help with investigating what words mean.
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I am a huge linguistics reader. After reading much of Halliday's material, alongside Stanley Porter, and many others out of the Cambridge series, this resource was absolutely right when it asserted that "lexical semantics is unduly neglected" in literature today. D. A. Cruse here has put together an excellent examination about how words flow with meaning throughout the flow of a discourse. Issues such as modulation, Zeugma (i.e. cohesion), and established sense, all contribute what I consider to be an indispensable foundation for linguistic understanding. Written in a what the author admits is a style "for those with no background in linguistics" seems to presuppose that this is foundational teaching. I could not imagine a linguistic library without this resource.

If you enjoy a direct style, combined with depth and breadth of examination on the topic of how words in a discourse (i.e. Lexical units) flow into an author's intent behind them to ultimately craft a accumulated reference of meaning--you will love and continue to come back to this resource.
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