From: Moon-Ryul Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Mar 01 2001 - 01:32:35 EST
> Is there any difference SEMANTICALLY and/or GRAMMATICALLY in the sentences
> In other words, after all is said and done, all four sentences are
> the same information at the semantic and grammatical levels, right?
Let me assume that you meant "syntactical" by "grammatical".
We usually do not talk about "information at syntactic level",
because information does not belong to the domain of syntax.
Intuitively, each sentence in a given discourse intends to describe
a particular situation in which the sentence is true.
In linguistics, it is usually assumed that the hearer obtains this
particular situation in two steps, which are often called "semantics" and
It is still in dispute what goes into semantics and what goes into
pragmatics, and it will be by the nature of the problem.
Traditional liguists often divide semantics and
pragmatics sharply. Their theory can be roughly described as follows:
The "information of a sentence at semantic level" or the
"semantic" meaning of the sentence is
defined to be the content of the sentence that can be determined
without reference to the context. The semantic meaning is therefore
uncancelable by the context. This "semantic content" is often
not determined enough to tell whether it is true or not.
To determine the truth-value, the undetermined semantic content
should be expanded with the help of the context. This step of using the
context to determine the situation of the sentence is
But some modern linguists to which I was exposed
do not separate semantics and pragmatics, and propose a unified
semantics/pragmatics. Here the situation of a sentence is determined
through an unbroken procedure, and it is not necessary to divide
the procedure into two steps.
So, to answer your question, emphasis belongs to pragmatics in one theory,
and to semantics/pragmatics in another theory.
There is a position between the two, to which I am inclined to agree.
It may be called protopytical or default semantics. It says
(1) Do not postulate an undetermined semantic meaning of sentence.
[The undetermined semantic meaning is inevitable if we do not use
the contextual information at all when we try to determine the
meaning of the sentence.]
(2) Use a minimum amount of contextual information to get the default
or prototypical meaning of the sentence. (semantics)
(3) Use the context fully to determine the propositional content of the
I think this position is plausible, because the search for uncancelable
semantic content of a sentence is unrealistic, and it is doubtful
whether this search is really going on in the mind of the hearer.
In the theory of default semantics, the answer to your question would be
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea
canceled in some situations.
which is inevitable if
But the truth value of a sentence is not all the information that the
sentence conveys. A sentence usually is uttered under some presupposition,
which is shared between the speaker and the hearer, and the real purpose
a sentence is to convey information relevant to the hearer. Finding
information other than the truth value of a sentence belongs to the domain
of "pragmatics". The emphasis or focus of a sentence belongs to the domain
But the thing is not so clear. The focus of a sentence may affect its
Suppose that John introduced Mary, Judy, and Pam, to Jim and Tom. Given
this situation, all of the following sentences are true:
(1) John introduced Mary to Jim.
(2) John intrdocued Mary to Tom.
(3) John introduced Judy to Jim.
(4) John introduced Judy to Tom, and etc.
> Which is another way of asking, where does EMPHASIS fit in linguistics? Is
> it a
> syntactical thing that is kind of nice, but in and of itself carries no
> semantic weight?
> Thank you ...linguists :o )
> Mark Wilson
> Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com
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