Referential approach to Meaning


What is 'meaning'? This question is not easy to answer. The linguistic science at present cannot give a definition of meaning which is conclusive.

However, we know for sure that the function of the word as a unit of communication is possible because it possesses a meaning. Therefore, among the word's various characteristics, meaning is the most important.

The linguistic discipline which specializes in the study of meaning is called semantics. As with many terms, the term "semantics" is ambiguous because it can stand for the expressive aspect of language in general and for the meaning of one particular word. Semantics has two branches: semasiology and onomasiology. The term semasiology is also ambiguous: in its general meaning it is synonymous to semantics and in its narrow meaning is contrasted to onomasiology, as semasiology? studies meaning of language units in the direction 'from name/sign to concept', while onomasiology studies in the direction 'from thing to name'.

Generally speaking,meaning can be described as a component of the word through which a concept is communicated, in this way endowing the word with the ability of denoting real objects, qualities, actions and abstract notions. The complex and somewhat mysterious relationships between referent (object, thing, etc. denoted by the word), concept (thought, reference) and word (symbol, name, sign) are traditionally represented by the following triangle

Thought or Reference

Symbol or name Referent or object

The dotted line suggests that there is no immediate relation between word and referent: it is established only through concept.

The mechanism by which concepts (i.e. mental phenomena) are converted into words (i.e. linguistic phenomena) and the reverse process are not yet understood or described.


  1. Analyze the meanings of the italicized words. Identify the result of the changes of the connotational aspect of lexical meaning in the given words.
  2. Approach and entry 7.91
  3. Classification of word meaning
  4. Compare the meanings of the given words. Define what semantic features are shared by all the members of the group and what semantic properties distinguish them from each other.
  5. Grammatical meaning.
  6. Grammatical meaning.
  7. Lexical meaning and its structure.
  8. Read the text about Parliamentary monarchy. Guess the meaning of underlined words.
  9. Referential Meaning and its Rendering in Translation
  10. Rendering of stylistic meaning in translation
  11. Stylistic devices based on the meaning of the category of case

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