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Why Is It Difficult to Separate Semantics From Pragmatics in Linguistics?

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Semantics and pragmatics are the study of meaning communicated through language. Linguists who work in these branches of linguistics are interested in the ways in which words acquire meaning, and the processes by which native users of a language are able to give stable interpretations to word strings. Problems of meaning are arguably among the most significant which addressers and addressees experience in communicating with each other.

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Semantics and pragmatics are both involving sophisticated methods of studying meaning with different focuses where semantics focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata while pragmatics studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. The key issue is whether their objects to be analyzed can be separated from each other or if each sub-discipline can give one individual object called ‘meaning’. Semantics was conventionally responsible for compositionally deduced sentence meaning, in which there is a combination of the meanings of lexical items and the structure involved. Unquestionably, the truth-conditional semantics is the best developed approach to sentence meaning. It appears that such formal methods allow the translation of vague and ambiguous sentences of natural language into a precise metalanguage of predicate logic with the provision of sense-making logical forms. Pragmatics was recognized as a study of utterance intended meaning, and so it is the meaning in context, and was hence undertaking with a different aspect of field to be studied

It was also regarded as a separate enterprise with different object of study.

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Morris assigns a rather narrow scope to semantics

If semantics is the study of thesign-designatum relation, it must remain silent about the linguistic meanings of thoseexpressions whose function is not to stand for something. According to Morris, theseinclude prepositions, affixes, quantifiers and logical connectives, all of which indicate(but not designate) syntactic relations to other signs in the language, as well as adverbs,such as ‘fortunately’ or ‘certainly’, which indicate (but again, do not designate) pragmaticrelations involving the users of the sign (Perry, John (1986). Indexicals are also not dealt with in semantics,although Morris’s exact views are a bit hard to pin down. At one point Morris claims thatwithin the sentence ‘That white horse runs slowly,’ spoken in an actual situation withindexical gestures “‘that’ in combination with the indexical gesture serves as an indexicalsign” (Morris, Charles (1938). This seems to suggest that the demonstrative pronoun by itself is not a sign at all.In a later work, however, he is willing to say that “terms such as ‘it’, ‘this’, ‘I’, ‘now’ are[…] singular signs like “proper names” but differing from proper names in that what theydenote varies with the circumstances of production of the individual sign-vehicles of thesign-families to which they belong.

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Overall, the researchers attribute the semantic andpragmatic errors of the testees to their mother tongue interference , weakness invocabulary and reading comprehension . This type of errors may be regarded asa guidance to insure that it is necessary to concentrate on our program to ourstudents on different level on how to understand meaning of linguistics elementand knowledge and differentiate between connotation and denotation of thewords as well as the intention of speaker writer meaning of any discourse

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Morris, Charles (1946) Signs, Language, and Behavior. New York: Prentice Hall.

Neale, Stephen (1992) ‘Paul Grice and the philosophy of language.’ Linguistics andPhilosophy 15: 509 – 559.

Nunberg, Geoffrey (1993) ‘Indexicality and deixis.’ Linguistics and Philosophy 16: 1 –43.Perry, John (1986) ‘Thought Without Representation.’ Supplementary Proceedings of theAristotelian Society 60: 137 – 152.

Recanati, Francois (2001) ‘What is said.’ Synthese 128: 75 – 91

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