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In
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying ...

linguistics
, a semantic field is a lexical set of words grouped
semantically Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including linguistics Linguistics is th ...
(by
meaning Meaning most commonly refers to: * Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language * Meaning (philosophy), definition, elements, and types of meaning discussed in philosophy * Meaning (non-linguistic), a general ter ...
) that refers to a specific subject.Howard Jackson, Etienne Zé Amvela, ''Words, Meaning, and Vocabulary'', Continuum, 2000, p14. The term is also used in
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
,Ingold, Tim (1996). ''Key debates in anthropology''. Routledge. , . Source

(accessed: Sunday May 2, 2010), p.127
computational semiotics Computational semiotics is an interdisciplinary field that applies, conducts, and draws on research in logic, mathematics, the theory of computation, theory and computer programming, practice of computer science, computation, formal language, formal ...
, and technical
exegesis Exegesis (; from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is app ...
.


Definition and usage

Brinton (2000: p. 112) defines "semantic field" or "semantic domain" and relates the linguistic concept to
hyponymy In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
:
Related to the concept of hyponymy, but more loosely defined, is the notion of a semantic field or domain. A semantic field denotes a segment of reality symbolized by a set of related words. The words in a semantic field share a common
semantic property Semantic properties or meaning properties are those aspects of a linguistic unit, such as a morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not necessarily the same as a word. The main difference between a morphe ...
.
A general and intuitive description is that words in a semantic field are not necessarily
synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. A morpheme is not a word. The difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone ...
ous, but are all used to talk about the same general phenomenon.Adrian Akmajian, Richard A. Demers, Ann K. Farmer, Robert M. Harnish, ''Linguistics'', MIT Press, 2001, p239. Synonymy requires the sharing of a
sememe __NOTOC__ A sememe () is a semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by whic ...
or seme, but the semantic field is a larger area surrounding those. A meaning of a word is dependent partly on its relation to other words in the same conceptual area. The kinds of semantic fields vary from culture to culture and anthropologists use them to study belief systems and reasoning across cultural groups. Andersen (1990: p.327) identifies the traditional usage of "semantic field" theory as:
Traditionally, semantic fields have been used for comparing the lexical structure of different languages and different states of the same language.


History

The origin of the field theory of semantics is the lexical field theory introduced by Jost Trier in the 1930s,David Corson, ''Using English Words'', Springer, 1995. although according to John Lyons it has historical roots in the ideas of
Wilhelm von Humboldt Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand von Humboldt (, also , ; ; 22 June 1767 – 8 April 1835) was a philosopher, , , diplomat, and founder of the , which was named after him in 1949 (and also after his younger brother, , a ). He is espe ...

Wilhelm von Humboldt
and
Johann Gottfried Herder Johann Gottfried (after 1802, von) Herder (; ; 25 August 174418 December 1803) was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment, ''Sturm und Drang'', and Weimar Classic ...

Johann Gottfried Herder
. In the 1960s Stephen Ullmann saw semantic fields as crystallising and perpetuating the values of society. For John Lyons in the 1970s words related in any sense belonged to the same semantic field, and the semantic field was simply a
lexical category In traditional grammar, a part of speech or part-of-speech ( abbreviated as POS or PoS) is a category of words (or, more generally, of lexical items) that have similar grammatical properties. Words that are assigned to the same part of speech g ...
, which he described as a lexical field. Lyons emphasised the distinction between semantic fields and
semantic networks upExample of a semantic network A semantic network, or frame network is a knowledge base A knowledge base (KB) is a technology used to information storage, store complex structured data, structured and unstructured information used by a comput ...
. In the 1980s
Eva Kittay Eva Feder Kittay is an American philosopher. She is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus, Emerita) at Stony Brook University. Her primary interests include feminist philosophy, ethics, social and political theory, metaphor, and the appl ...
developed a semantic field theory of
metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of ...
. This approach is based on the idea that the items in a semantic field have specific relations to other items in the same field, and that a metaphor works by re-ordering the relations of a field by mapping them on to the existing relations of another field. Sue Atkins and Charles J. Fillmore in the 1990s proposed frame semantics as an alternative to semantic field theory.Pamela B. Faber, Ricardo Mairal Usón, ''Constructing a Lexicon of English Verbs'', Walter de Gruyter, 1999, p73.


Semantic shifts

The semantic field of a given word shifts over time. The
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
word "man" used to mean "human being" exclusively, while today it predominantly means "adult male," but its semantic field still extends in some uses to the generic "
human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A speci ...

human
" (see
Mannaz *Mannaz is the conventional name of the ''m''-rune Runes are the letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that ...

Mannaz
). Overlapping semantic fields are problematic, especially in
translation Translation is the communication of the meaning Meaning most commonly refers to: * Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language * Meaning (philosophy), definition, elements, and types of meaning discusse ...

translation
. Words that have multiple meanings (called
polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguistics Linguistics is the science, s ...
words) are often untranslatable, especially with all their connotations. Such words are frequently loaned instead of translated. Examples include "
chivalry Chivalry, or the chivalric code, is an informal and varying code of conduct A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the norms Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic disciplines * Norm (geology), an estimate of the idealised ...
" (literally "horsemanship", related to "cavalry"), "
dharma Dharma (; sa, धर्म, dharma, ; pi, dhamma, italic=yes; ta, aṟam, italic=yes) is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the s ...
" (literally, "support"), and "
taboo A taboo is an implicit prohibition on something (usually against an utterance or behavior) based on a cultural sense that it is excessively repulsive or, perhaps, too sacred for ordinary people.''Encyclopædia Britannica Online''.Taboo. Encyclop ...

taboo
".


Anthropological discourse

Semantic field theory has informed the discourse of Anthropology as Ingold (1996: p. 127) relates:
Semiology is not, of course, the same as semantics. Semiology is based on the idea that signs have meaning in relation to each other, such that a whole society is made up of relationally held meanings. But semantic fields do not stand in relations of opposition to each other, nor do they derive their distinctiveness in this way, nor indeed are they securely bounded at all. Rather, semantic fields are constantly flowing into each other. I may define a field of religion, but it soon becomes that of ethnic identity and then of politics and selfhood, and so on. In the very act of specifying semantic fields, people engage in an act of closure whereby they become conscious of what they have excluded and what they must therefore include.


See also

*
Hyponymy In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
*
Metonymy Metonymy () is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept. Etymology The words ''metonymy'' and ''metonym'' come from the Greek language, Greek , , "a cha ...
*
Polysemy Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings. Polysemy is thus distinct from homonymy In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are h ...
*
Semantic class Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another ...
*
Thesaurus A thesaurus (plural ''thesauri'' or ''thesauruses'') or synonym dictionary is a reference work for finding synonyms and sometimes antonyms of words. They are often used by writers to help find the best word to express an idea: Synonym diction ...

Thesaurus


References

{{Reflist Semantics (linguistics) Semantic relations