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Semantic Analysis: A Practical Introduction (Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics) 2nd Edition

3 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0199560288
ISBN-10: 0199560285
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Editorial Reviews

Review

a valuable textbook grounded in the Natural Semantic Metalanguage theory, with enough breadth and depth to be suitable for most basic semantics courses. Onna Nelson, Studies in Language

About the Author


Cliff Goddard is Professor of Linguistics at Griffith University, Australia. He was previously Professor of Linguistics, University of New England. His books include The Languages of East and Southeast Asia (OUP 2005). He is co-editor with Anna Wierzbicka of Meaning and Universal Grammar (Benjamins 2002) with whom he is currently working on a book concerned with words and meanings.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (September 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199560285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199560288
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 1.2 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,243,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
The Natural Semantic Metalanguage of Anna Wierzbicka and her colleagues is a conceptual theory, utilizing, like many others, the notion of a relatively small number of semantic primitives. Unlike other theories, however, the NSM approach intends the primitives to be empirically discovered rather than merely programmatic; and intends them to be concrete expressions of real language rather than abstractions. They are simply universal terms having a degree of simplicity such that they cannot themselves be defined without the introduction of obscurity. There are about 55 such terms so far established and tested, including, for example, I, YOU, SOMEONE,ONE, TWO,THINK, KNOW,SAY, WORD, DO, HAPPEN, etc.
The claim is that some terms are more basic, clear and understandable than others, not merely for some individuals, but absolutely for all individuals. It is based on Chapter 4 of Book VI of Aristotle's _Topics_. The idea is that (conceptual) semantics is a matter of giving definitions, and a definition ought to be simpler than what is being defined. But the validity of the claim depends upon our acceptance of the notion "semantic complexity" - the claim that some terms are semantically more complex than other, simpler, terms.
We cannot do semantic analysis without a set of primitives, for all definitions would be inherently circular. If there are semantic primitives, then there are at least some simple or basic terms which themselves do not need definition and cannot be further defined. "To understand anything we must reduce the unknown to the known, the obscure to the clear, the abstruse to the self-explanatory." Wierzbicka, _Semantics: Primes and Universals_, p. 11.
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