Semantics (from Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikos, "significant") is the linguistic, and philosophical study of meaning — in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It focuses on the relationship between signifiers — like words, phrases, signs, and symbols — and what they stand for, their denotation.
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- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- My intention was to give a general outline, to sketch a general division and, as it were, a provisional plan of a domain that has not been studied so far and which should be the result of work for many generations of linguists. The reader is therefore requested to consider this book a simple introduction to the science which I propose to call semantics.
- [ Semantics can be defined as] the science of the meanings of words, [the central issue of which is] the problem of the relationship between words and designata.
- All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.
- Felix Frankfurter, Reply to counsel who said a challenge from the bench was “just a matter of semantics,” Reader’s Digest (June 1964).
G - L
M - R
- Who Are the Semanticists? To answer this question, let us go to the writings of those who make frequent references to semantics or to equivalent terms which have to do with the study of meaning. We find that a number of prominent thinkers have occupied themselves with this study. In England these include Whitehead, Russell, Ogden, Richards, Ayer, and others; in Austria (later scattered, fleeing from fascism), a group of writers who called themselves the Vienna Circle, which included Carnap and Frank (now in in the United States), Wittgenstein (now in England), and Neurath (deceased); the United States is represented by Charles Morris, and Poland by Tarski and Korzybski (deceased), both of whom emigrated to the United States.
- "What is good in Korzybski's work," they say, "is not new, and what is new is not good." On the other hand, many "Korzybski-ites" proclaim that Korzybski's work has "nothing to do" with semantics. They go so far as to say that the very term "general semantics" was an unfortunate choice; that had Korzybski known what confusion would arise between semantics and general semantics he would not have used it at all. Korzybski himself has maintained that while semantics belongs to the philosophy of language and perhaps to the theory of knowledge, general semantics belongs to empirical science: that it is the foundation of a science of man, the basis of the first "non-aristotelian system," which has had no predecessor and which no academic semanticist has ever achieved.
- Anatol Rapoport in Et Cetera, (1953), p. 14.
S - Z
- Semantics (semasiology) is a branch of linguistics. The questions which are of particular interest in this connection are — with what is that branch of linguistics concerned, and in what does it see the distinction between itself and the semantic problems found in contemporary logic.
- To begin with the term itself: it comes from the eminent French linguist Bréal and is genetically connected with linguistics. In the late 19th century Michel Bréal published his Essai de semantique. Science des significations.
- In a footnote, Bréal explains the meaning of the term "semantics" — the science of meanings... 'denote', as opposed to phonetics, the science of speech sounds.
- Adam Schaff (1962). Introduction to semantics, p. 3
- It was Thomas Hobbes who, anticipating semantics, pointed out that words are counters, not coins; that the wise man looks through them to reality.
- Rabbi Milton Steinberg in "Creed of An American Zionist" (1945).