Semantics Essay Example


Depending on the source used, the parts of language, semantics, syntax, morphology, and phonology, can be defined differently. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA] (2021), semantics is defined as definitions of words and combinations of words. On the contrary, Owens (2016) defines semantics as an organization of rules directing the meaning or content of words and the combinations. These definitions are very similar, both stating words like definitions or content relating to the vocabulary. Both state semantics as using words or combinations of words. However, the definitions differ because Owens specifies semantics as more rule-based compared to ASHA’s definition of just meaning. An example of semantics shown by Jake is when he tells Cosby he has a baby brother. This a semantic relation because he gave the attribute of “baby” to his brother. Another example of semantics is when Jake says, “when I grow up, I want to be a paleontologist. They discover dinosaur bones.” Later in the conversation, he talks about being a rock star when he is older.  These show the use of categories because he knows different types of jobs. He also knows that later in life he will have to get a job which is a temporal concept. Another example is when Cosby asks Jake where his parents are at in the audience. Jake tells him “over there” demonstrating an appropriate use of a semantic relationship, specifically location. Michael uses basic vocabulary. He uses some semantic relations. One example is when he gives his school the attribute of “boring”.  Another example is when he tells his dad about the “new couch.” That is another semantic relationship of attribution. Michael says, “I saw the teacher.” This is an example of existence, another semantic relation. In conclusion, semantics is the words and combinations of words that have meaning.

According to ASHA (2021), syntax can be defined as the orders for words in order to create sentences whereas Owens (2016) defined syntax as the rules required for the acceptable format of sentences. The definitions are alike because they both discuss the order or format of sentences. They differ because Owens defines syntax as more requirements, but ASHA focuses more on the structure. There were some instances of syntax in Jake’s conversation. He states many declarative statements such as “I am going to be a paleontologist.” In this conversation, he did not change the sentence type a lot, but he changes the complexity a bit. He used an infinitival clause, “to be,” which changed the complexity of his sentence. Additionally, Jake said “it jumped out when people walked by and then ran after them.” The use of the words like then and when makes subordinate clauses, creating complex sentences. Michael uses pretty simple sentences like “we got a new couch.” In addition to declarative sentences, he uses negative sentences. For example, when his mother asks what grade he is in, he responds “I don’t go to kindergarten anymore.” In conclusion, syntax relates to different sentence structures.

Owens (2016) defines phonology as rules for the framework, arrangement, and sequencing of phonemes, and syllable shapes. ASHA (2021) defines phonology as the study of speech sounds of a language as well as the guidelines for connecting the sounds and using the combinations of sounds. The definitions are similar because they both talk about speech sounds also known as phonemes and their combinations. They also both focus on the rules. These two definitions are almost identical, but Owens refers to syllable shapes whereas ASHA refers to phoneme combinations. Jake is very good at pronouncing phonemes. For example, he said, “sharp as a nail.” This statement has some tricky phonemes such as /l/ and /ʃ/, but Jake can say them correctly. He is also able to say “four inches long” which also contains difficult phonemes such as /f/, /tʃ/, and /ŋ/. In the video of Michael, he does not pronounce phonemes well. For example, his father asks what his sister’s name is, and he says /gel/, but his father says /klaɝ/. He has trouble with the / ɝ/ and /k/ sounds. In the second video, his speech is better, but he still has trouble with the /s/ and /t/ sound/. He also says /fri/ instead of /ɵri/. In conclusion, phonology is the sounds of language.

One definition of morphology is the study of orders and guidelines of how the smallest meaningful units of a language can be used (ASHA 2021). Another definition is the internal system of words (Owens 2016). These definitions are quite different. ASHA’s focuses on morphology’s smallest units or morphemes. Owens uses a broader definition as the organization and focuses on morphemes separately. Both focus on guidelines in order to change the intraword units of the language. Jake used morphology and morphemes many times in his conversation. One example was when he told Cosby that “the velociraptor was faster than anything on earth.” He uses both free morphemes and bound morphemes. For example, he used free content morphemes such as velociraptor, earth, etc. He also used free functional morphemes such as the, on, etc. The last type of morpheme Jake used in this sentence was the suffix of -er on the word fast. In the second video of Michael, he uses morphemes, but he needed some more in order to make more sense. For instance, he said, “it boring.” He is missing free content morphemes such as a verb. He used a pronoun which is a functional morpheme, which was acceptable, but he also paused for a long time before he said that. If he would have added a noun (free content morpheme) instead of the pronoun, it might have made a little more sense, but both were acceptable. He also added “-ing,” a bound inflectional morpheme, in order to make “boring.” In conclusion, morphology is rules of the words and units of language that have meaning.

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