Propositions, [Nice1951] 046-0080


c. £* mmr,h PROPOSITI ’ ITS

(X) Semantics t Tern and lomaln. Tn» tern semantica i® usod by many linguists to denet© exclusively the *au! »tmW -f ling lstio dootent u opposed to He form, or is even confined to faets of la P.axyleA Its Plo© in linguistics would then be that of an auxiliary science suCh as phonetics* This wo M« a rev® question of terminology If there were any woIX—recounited term answering to phonemic® In the way that semantics is mnA& to answer to phonetics# to ©note the scions© o t ltr yilst 1c content ue -• T! ■ d o : •-.:•• u-.r, 5- :> h ’•-••CO lo:oi:i • o ’ occ 1 •/* In ; >ono- lo/rr* ut there la no such term* Such attempts as those to distinguish between semasiology and semantics have generally been made by scholars not yet familiar with newer structural principles and nave 1« any case had little influence on current usage# Sow when a "case vide" is left waiting for a term* It is only too likely to he filled by some already existing notion which docs not /.©long here, t all. We find expliclty l the works of some scholars# implicitly in those of many r or©# the equation * phonematics * phonetics — morphology* semantics * This unhappy eanpnris an is a fruitful source of error# not least with linguists who would be the last to recognise the equation, as re- presenting thler view* Instances could « cited fro- wort® proceeding i*om any of the principle linguistic schools. tn independent linguistic branch dealing with the ser.antios of 1© lanaue remains therefore to 1© founded• The questions with ©Men It will be concerned are at present dealt with under the heading of morphology or dismissed as mere affairs of "substance # so far as they have even re elved at tention• The missing discipline will bear the same relation to orphology on the on© side m phonematles does on the; other, orphology, so far from being irrelevant# will have a decisive role in the 1 ‘ant if lost ion of units (the omm role that it plays# though often without explicit recognition# In the identification of phonematic units). Out just as th© phonem tic svstern# once cota' lished in conformity with the principle© of relevance# can be treated Independently of morphology# so ’Iso son the "semematie* system# without prejudice to tho solid verity of the dif- fevent levels* It is t is system that gement lm is used for below.

(a) ©mantles and orphology. Morphological categories are not, as such# a fit o !ect for soman- tic analysis* -o set up a semantic scheme for the propositions or the tenses of a language# taken In isolation# is much like tsetting up a phonemic system* for thee© categories# apart from the general phonemic system of the language concerned. The logical absurdity is In both cases the same# This is not to say hat morphology iQ Irrelevant to no-antics • orphe P-ie Ife tlfy is n valuable clue to the iiacovory of su'lo :loal Identities beneath superficially different meanings* ut is never a proof that there la# or ever was# such an identity.




The assumption of such identities my hinder thai of others ♦ ?or tnstane© li 1s conceivable that gaa moaning of a preposition might be identical with on© moaning of a verbal aspect, »hen all the difference® automatically consequent on the other unit® in the combination® concer- må wer® accounted for* the samo be attributing to each category it® own single and unique role, the way to the discovery of such 1 entitles is © feettvely closed* This la the error of par>Mteatlc atomism. It Is usually accompanied by the error of syntagma tie atomism, the "assumption that the meaning of a' eyntagm (after all contextual acol 'onto have been deducted) is nc- cessarily accounted for completely by the meanings of the Individual morphemes and, of their sequence. It 1® forgotten that the method of commutation, which oorvoa to demonstrate a relevant distinction of meaning,, cannot serve to localise this distinction at on© point of the chain* That the chain cannot be split up into a series of discrete units follows from a form of curaul seldom or never mentioned under that heading* Cunul is understood to consist of indivisible sl^nlflantB answering to

T «is presents no difficulty*

he position is

usually more complex t we have rather a morpheme A in which the oemntie units al, a2 etc, may he localised, a morpheme B with unite hi, bSt etc., in a eyntagm B yielding also the ælte c, d, © which cannot bo loca- Used in either A or B independently, nor yet In the pattern of their combinot on, but la spread in indeterminable proportions over e aeh# © ■ may succeed in reducing those units by putting the burden on the lln- gulatic context, but the fact of a "orbheme~tfixd.fiIon does nothing to assure that this reduction is possible. In brief, neither ayntagmatie nor p&iudigroatie division« in mon- phology or© a guarantee of semantic division, "•tl argument® to the eon- irony move In a circle* (5) Semantics and -yntax* In the older linguistics syntax anl semantics tended to be confused. In the newer linguistics they tend to be contrasted* Beit her tendency is fustifled* c deal only with the latter*

In a much simplified form. "Two definitions of the adject!

the view may be stated a® follows * w are conceivable • The om 1« syntactict the adjective 1® defined by Its normally presupposing a substantive in the syntagma, by its 'Subordination to the substantive etc* ^uhatan- tlgft and subordination art' alao defined syntactically (e.g. auborSinSIX it proved


tsy the’“'inability of a unit to enter the mm combinations as the syntagm of which it is part). The other definition would be soman- tie * the- adjective normally expresses an epithet, ut this criterion i* either secondary, or quite Irrelevant”* Such a statement is acceptable* Tee adjective can ot be defind ee- mantleally, for the simple reason that it Is not a semantic unit. It can be defined syntactically since *11 units (including the phoneme*) con be defined syntactically. And since it belongs to no single 11- guistie plane, hut to the Jn-us-faced class of signs, it can'not bo defined on any of those pianos, but only in terms of syntax, m appli- cable to all planes. ut the notion of a contrast between syntactic må semantic deft- nitlons is quite false} since there are also semantic units, and these are capable of a double deficition, or© syntactic awl the other semantic} Just - s the phoneme* are capable of a double definition, without any- body having epohen of a contrast between phonemic® and syntax. (i;,or



3/*51 ?n#tan«® In many system« the wel may be defined, as against the consonant, *y Its son-preaupposltlon of another wit *» a syntactic do- finit las - O" by lto acoustic features, in the Trubetskoy on stylo), '•hose semantic units have not yet veen isolated from the speech* continuum, ot because this is impossible, nor even because it is diffi«* cult, but rather because the climate of structural 11 pieties is oppo- sed to the ".usstioo being raised, hen these untie have been isolated it rill be found that they haw their own syntax, and that they have their own syntax, and that they haw their tøfinit lone In terms of this syntax j that they are define tie extenslonally «• well as intonsiomlly, ctk*. have a structure worth Investigating for its own sake, (4) The structural definition of semantic relations, ' iructurai semantics Is gøv vmå by the -ausc .general principle« as phone- las, and in par1 lcnlar by this principle of relevance, "fence if two connected semantic *«r it#*1 stand in complementary ’lotributton (thue never answering to a distinction of expression) they must be reyarded as variants of a single semantic wit, For instance the relations t’possessor of (an object)1’ and”agent of (a process)” between which the difference is automatically regulated by the meanings of the semantemes to which the relation apllics, are varia ta of the sans semantic unit, (Both variants occur i nominal combinations* only the second in actor-action phrases, and so on, H is not of course asserted that these are the only relations holding between the terms in :oration). The structure of semantic relations, apart from their complexity, 1© similar to that of phoneric relations, Jience the earns terms can tø used, and illustrated first from the phonemic plane, where we haw three principle relations * (1) Two asymmetric relitions (ArS Is incompatible with RrA) t (ft) A relation with equipollent poles I &<:. nence. (Equipollent, sine© an isolated unit is both before and aftey aero, (b) A relation with privatively contrasted poles i prominence (usually actualised by stress-differences m fcetveen svffa-lee, or by differences of syllabicity as between phonemes), (?ri- vative, since an isolated unit i *mors prominent than* the surrounding zeros), (ii) Ones symmetric relation t Juncture (open, closed ©to,) (ArB-OrA)• Juncture seen« always to be privative i m isolated unit has open Juncture with surrounding zero, (Hence open Juncture is the u marked pole of the opposition, iv© return to the semantic relation cited above. This relation is obviously asymmetri«* It can also be described as primitive, since the terra rast normally in isolation (e.g, impersonal v rbe) arc proceaalve and not agental, other terra being neither* The relation thus comes the heading of prominence” • (Though its definition is purely structural, the term answer© well ©rough to our instinctive feeling that the pro- dlcate is more prominent than the subject, that the object possessed rather than the posoeoaor is the *centre of attention* in -enitlval constructions, sad so on. But it mot be not d again < hat such terns as predicate and genitive do no belong to this level of analysis% they have semantic relevance but no ..©mantle status), ut it Is obvious that a to m such as prominence is insufficient



ihl to define the {’elation In uestion (which for went of a name my he called "participation" >8 for the are many other semantic relations answering to the a are definition * in fact superordimtion In syntax (as usually røderetood) normally answers to prominence in semantics* Many other struc- tural terms lie ready to hand rør ih«? aar "awing of the definition * trans- ltlve and intransitive in the logistic sense, co-mutat tonal and perrruta- tioctal in the gloaaematie senses- and so on* ( for instance the relations expressed by the cases arc normally permtilahlc, not' oswnatable ), Such terms have however hardly yet oen exploited for the structural defini- lion of relations, in the field of linguistics•

It is not only In rtehne -s that the semantic re 1 at .ions exceed the phonemic* To take again the relat ion w-.ose variants hare ! sea united under the corøun label of "participation* t it sill he ©as- to find this came relation expressed by a stom»morphM»f most oomroriy of the typo. nrvo. hit then in its© group "* tes X* two analysdc will he necessary * enlhe one hand there is the reflation of participation tie tween A . and

the I is th



has X « rcl>

. (as in any other verbal group)! on the other hand there ation between A and X, the vert? itself cumulating the

senate of participation and other relations# These analyses (ArX and *rYX- in which have plays the roles of r ard 1 respectively) are con- tradletory*

Then# contradictory analyses must not he confused with merely in- dif.fcgei?t analyses (for instance it l indifferent whether wo resjaiSi ■:n inflection as affecting a noun or a whole nominal group)# Analyses are indifferent when th© whole system can be described with oqusl ooo- norny an completeness on© way or the other* rut hew neither analysis cars 'e deduced .from the other end both arc necessary for a complete description of linguistic relations* The principle of non-eantradiotovy analysis, which (though often so mo sacrifloo of real lost) my he maintained in phonemics, breaks down at the start on examination of the semantic system*

C,r;. 'A2EIX