Meaning by Marinus Jan Marijs
The meaning of the concept meaning
(what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action)
Meaning is an interpretation of the signification of :
sensory data, words, abstract symbols, a situation, act, idea or object with reference to how one should respond.
Meaning is a conscious perception of significance, of value.
definition, sense, explanation, denotation, connotation, interpretation, elucidation, explication
“the word has several different meanings”
There are different levels of meaning: 24X
While it is not a continuum, there are different strata of meaning, each with a higher level of abstraction.
Meaning of spatial structures – sensory data
The interpretation of visual information which is perceived by the retina. Meaning a particular image on the retina corresponds to a particular object in the outside world.
These representations acquire their meaning from their relations with concrete objects.
Meaning of sounds
intend to convey or refer to (a particular thing); signify.
A certain sound is recognised as being produced by a certain object.
Meaning of abstract sounds
The appreciation of rhythm, melody and harmony.
Meaning of words
(of a word) have (something) as its signification in a certain language
For example the word “Chair” refers to a certain object with a certain function.
In semantics and pragmatics, meaning is the message conveyed by words, sentences, and symbols in a context. Also called lexical meaning or semantic meaning.
SEVEN TYPES OF MEANING
A word is the smallest unit of spoken language which has meaning and can stand alone, it is a written representation of one or more sounds which can be spoken to represent an idea, object, action, etc. in order to be understood by the people, a word must have a meaning.
Most words have more than one meaning, it is the characteristic of words that a single word may have several meaning,
in fact, words may play an enormous part in our life. Words are used to express something and also conveys feelings about we are describing. Words are used not in isolation but related to human situation. It is through our experience with them in human situation that they take on meaning.
If we talk about words, we cannot avoid talking about the study of meaning (semantics). The meaning of word is often complex, having such component as a picture, an idea, a quality, a relationship and personal feelings and association. Lyons 1977:643 in Palmer1981:40-41) suggested that we should draw a distinction between sentence meaning and utterance meaning, the sentence meaning being directly predictable from the grammatical and lexical features of the sentence, while utterance meaning includes all the various types of meaning, then, is the part of meaning of a sentence that we are going to discuss in the next following. Lyons states that, utterance meaning is the part of meaning of a sentence that is directly related to grammatical and lexical features, but is obtained either from associated prosodic and paralinguistic features or from the content, linguistic and non-linguistic. The seven types of meaning are as follows:
Seven types of meaning
Semantics is a study of the meaning of lexical items and other parts of language. There are seven types of meaning in Semantics; conceptual, connotative, stylistic, affective, reflected, collocative and thematic meaning.
1/Conceptual meaning (Word definition)
Conceptual meaning is sometimes called denotative meaning or cognitive meaning. It is the first meaning or usage which a word will suggest to most people when the word is said in isolation. it is the meaning learned early in life and likely to have reference to a physical situation, which shows exactly what we need to know if we are to distinguish that meaning from all other possible sentence meaning in the language.
Conceptual meaning means logical, cognitive, or denotative content. It is based on two structural principles. It is usually derived from definitions we find in dictionaries and the appearance of these lexical items. We give these lexical items features (constituent structures)
The second principle, that of structure, is the principle by which larger linguistic units are built up out of smaller units, a sentence that is constructed from several words:
The associative meaning of an expression has to do with individual mental understandings of the speaker.
They, in turn, can be broken up into six sub-types: connotative, collocative, social, affective, reflected and thematic
A/ Connotative meaning
“The communicative value an expression has by virtue of what it refers to” .
Connotation is the real-world value a speaker associates with an expression. In other words, it is the meaning above the conceptual meaning and it may vary according to culture, background or society. Thus, connotative meaning can be subjective or unstable.
It depends very much on how an individual or society perceives a word.
Two concepts, A and B, are expressed by the same symbol. Ex-ample: Both a financial institution and a edge of a river are expressed by the word bank (the word has two senses).
Stylistic meaning is that which a piece of language conveys about the circumstances of its use. A recent account of English has recognized some main dimensions of stylistic variation.
C/ Affective meaning
And there are elements of language such as interjections, like (Aha!)Whose main function is to express emotions.
Affective meaning is a sort of meaning which an effect the personal feeling of speakers, including his/her attitude to the listener, or his/her attitude to something he/she talking about. Factors such as intonation and voice timbre are also important here.
D/ Reflected meaning
Reflected meaning involves an interconnection on the lexical level of language, it is the meaning, which arises in case of multiple conceptual meaning, when one senses of word forms part of our response to another sense.
E/ Collocative meaning
Collocative meaning is the associated meaning a word acquires in line with the meaning of words which tend to co-occur with it. Both pretty and handsome mean good-looking but they differ in collocative meaning. Pretty often co-occurs with girl, woman, flower, skirt, etc. Handsome often collocates with boy, man, car, overcoat, etc.
The ranges may well match although they suggest a different kind of attractiveness of the adjectives.
This is the final category of meaning, thematic meaning is the meaning that is communicated by the way in which the speaker or writer organizes the message, in terms of ordering, focus, and emphasis. It is often felt an active sentence such as (1) below has a different meaning from its passive equivalent (2) although in conceptual content they seem to be the same (Leech. 1974: 19)
- Mrs. Bessie Smith donated the first prize.
- The first prize was donated by Mrs. Bessie Smith
We can assume that the active sentence answers an implicit question “what did Mrs. Bessie Smith donate?”, while the passive sentence answer the implicit question “who donates the first prize?”, that in other words (1) in contrast to se (2) suggest that we know who Mrs. Bessie Smith.
Larson, Mildred, L. 1984. Meaning based Translation. USA: University Press of America.
Leech, G.N. 1979, Semantics. Auxland: Pengin Books.
Palmer, I.R. 1981, Semantics, Cambridge University Press.
Tarigan, Guntur Henry. Prof. Dr. 1993. Pengajaran Semantik. Penerbit Angkasa Bandung.
Meaning of facial expression
Different emotions activate different facial muscles, which give different facial expressions, these indicate to a certain degree to an observer the mental state of the person in question.
This is of a great importance relating to interpersonal interactions.
Meaning of symbols
A symbol is a mark, sign or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication (and data processing) is achieved through the use of symbols. Symbols take the form of ideas or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for “STOP”. On a map, a blue line might represent a river. Numerals are symbols for numbers. Alphabetic letters may be symbols for sounds. Personal names are symbols representing individuals. A red rose may symbolize love and compassion. The variable ‘x’, in a mathematical equation, may symbolize the position of a particle in space.
Meaning of aesthetics
(The appreciation of beauty)
Aesthetics examines our affective domain response to an object or phenomenon. Judgments of aesthetic value rely on our ability to discriminate at a sensory level. However, aesthetic judgments usually go beyond sensory discrimination.
Meaning of dreams
A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep The content and purpose of dreams are not fully understood, although they have been a topic of scientific, philosophical and religious interest throughout recorded history. Dream interpretation is the attempt at drawing meaning from dreams and searching for an underlying message. The scientific study of dreams is called oneirology.
Meaning of concepts
Concepts are mental representations, abstract objects or abilities that make up the fundamental building blocks of thoughts and beliefs. They play an important role in all aspects of cognition
Representations become increasingly interconnected with each other and they acquire their meaning from their interrelations rather than simply their relations with concrete objects.
From Wikipedia: In contemporary philosophy, there are at least three prevailing ways to understand what a concept is:
- Concepts as mental representations, where concepts are entities that exist in the mind (mental objects)
- Concepts as abilities, where concepts are abilities peculiar to cognitive agents (mental states)
- Concepts as Fregean senses (see sense and reference), where concepts are abstract objects, as opposed to mental objects and mental states
Concepts can be organized into a hierarchy, higher levels of which are termed “superordinate” and lower levels termed “subordinate”. Additionally, there is the “basic” or “middle” level at which people will most readily categorize a concept. For example, a basic-level concept would be “chair”, with its superordinate, “furniture”, and its subordinate, “easy chair”.
When the mind makes a generalization such as the concept of tree, it extracts similarities from numerous examples; the simplification enables higher-level thinking.
A concept is instantiated (reified) by all of its actual or potential instances, whether these are things in the real world or other ideas.
Concepts are studied as components of human cognition in the cognitive science disciplines of linguistics, psychology and, philosophy, where an ongoing debate asks whether all cognition must occur through concepts. Concepts are used as formal tools or models in mathematics, computer science, databases and artificial intelligence where they are sometimes called classes, schema or categories. In informal use the word concept often just means any idea.
Meaning of societal values
(Collective shared mearing)
Social interaction and social organisation are made possible by the existence of culturally shared meanings
Meaning of morality, norms.
From Wikipedia: be of a specified degree of importance to (someone) related to
Morality (from Latin: moralis, lit. ‘manner, character, proper behavior’) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with “goodness” or “rightness”.
Moral philosophy includes metaethics, which studies abstract issues such as moral ontology and moral epistemology, and normative ethics, which studies more concrete systems of moral decision-making such as deontological ethics and consequentialism. An example of normative ethical philosophy is the Golden Rule, which states that: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.”
Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. opposition to that which is good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any particular set of moral standards or principles.
Meaning of spirituality
Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Synonymic: non-material, inner, psychic, psychical, psychological; incorporeal, intangible, other-worldly, unworldly, ethereal; transcendent, mystic, mystical, numinous, metaphysical; immaterial
“the spiritual dimension of human experience”
Meaning of life
(Purpose of existence)
From Wikipedia: The meaning of life, or the answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?”, pertains to the significance of living or existence in general. Many other related questions include: “Why are we here?”, “What is life all about?”, or “What is the purpose of existence?” There have been a large number of proposed answers to these questions from many different cultural and ideological backgrounds. The search for life’s meaning has produced much philosophical, scientific, theological, and metaphysical speculation throughout history. Different people and cultures believe different things for the answer to this question.
The meaning of life as we perceive it is derived from philosophical and religious contemplation of, and scientific inquiries about existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness. Many other issues are also involved, such as symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose, ethics, good and evil, free will, the existence of one or multiple gods, conceptions of God, the soul, and the afterlife. Scientific contributions focus primarily on describing related empirical facts about the universe, exploring the context and parameters concerning the “how” of life. Science also studies and can provide recommendations for the pursuit of well-being and a related conception of morality. An alternative, humanistic approach poses the question, “What is the meaning of my life?”
In positive psychology, a meaningful life is a construct having to do with the purpose, significance, fulfillment, and satisfaction of life. While specific theories vary, there are two common aspects: a global schema to understand one’s life and the belief that life itself is meaningful. Meaning can be defined as the connection linking two presumably independent entities together; a meaningful life links the biological reality of life to a symbolic interpretation or meaning. Those possessing a sense of meaning are generally found to be happier, to have lower levels of negative emotions, and to have lower risk of mental illness.
The meaning of social situations that varies to a certain degree from one culture to another.
Transcultural norms and values.
An example of this is the “Universal human rights.”
Relating to aspects transcending physical matter or the laws of nature
This includes also the question whether there is life after death.
Meaning of the Kosmos
The ultimate meaning of the totality of all that exists.
The Kosmic meaning of life is directly related to the process of Kosmic involution and the subsequent process of Kosmic evolution. The Kosmic meaning of life has to do directly with the final result of both processes.
This is a Kosmic transformation, whereby the involutionary force is transformed through evolutionary unfolding into highly-activated forms of subtle energies which then return immensely enriched to their source.
The question one could ask is: Why does this complex process of involution and evolution, which takes place over billions of years, happen?
Why this involution and the creation of the physical world?
The purpose and the result of this complex process is the activation of subtle energies at the highest level: the high-causal, the divine. This activation and energizing cannot be done directly at that level; the amount of energy necessary to do so cannot be generated directly at its own level.
Teleology or finality is a reason or explanation for something as a function of its end, purpose, or goal. It is derived from two Greek words: telos (end, goal, purpose) and logos (reason, explanation). A purpose that is imposed by a human use, such as that of a fork, is called extrinsic. Natural teleology, common in classical philosophy but controversial today, contends that natural entities also have intrinsic purposes, irrespective of human use or opinion. For instance, Aristotle claimed that an acorn’s intrinsic telos is to become a fully grown oak tree.
The illustration on top of the page is by Konstantin Savitsky (1844–1905), Travellers in Auvergne, 1876