CRITICALLY DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT WITH SUFFICIENT EXAMPLES “SENTENCE MEANING IS DEPENDENT ON SYNTAX AS MUCH AS ON COMPOSITIONALITY”Sentence meaning and compositionality is one of the most important topic in semantic studies. This study deals with the relationship between sentence meanings and how the meaning of individual words can be used to build up the meaning of larger units such as sentences and how the meaning can be investigated by these new forms. There are a lot of difficulties to understand the meaning of terms as syntax, semantics, utterance meaning, systematicity and compositionality. The essay aims to present a theoretical background about the forms of syntax, semantics and the interfaces between them, and how the form of sentence helps in understanding its meaning. Facilitating the ability to understand the concepts of sentence meaning and compositionality also the difference between sentence meaning and utterance meaning. Compositionality which will be grammatical and meaningful sentence. Semantics, syntactic structure and systematicity, to give meaningful and grammatical sentence.
Sentence meaning and compositionality is one of the most important syntactic-semantic study, since it deals with the study of the sentence structure and its meaning. There was a time when philosophy of language was concerned with language and its use than with meaning and propositions Katz and Fodor (cited in Chomsky, 1992: 162) have emphasized that the description of a sentence is based on the meaning of its elementary parts and the manner of their combination.
It is clear that the manner of combination is provided by the surface structure while it is irrelevant to semantic interpretation, whereas, the grammatical relations which are expressed in the abstract deep structure are those that determine the meaning of the sentence. Sentence meaning and compositionality is one of the most important syntactic-semantic study, since it deals with the study of the sentence structure and its meaning. There are terms related to sentence meaning and compositionality which are:
The term ”syntax” which means the way in which words combine to form sentences and the study of the rules governing the way words are combined to form sentences is called syntactic rules (Liles, 1971:77).
To illustrate the idea that syntax and semantics are two levels with independent (though interrelated) sets of structures and contrasts, and with separate constrains of well- formedness.
There is an example of the interaction of syntax and semantics comes from the functional relation of subject and object of a sentence:
1- John killed the snake and the snake died.
This example illustrates the degree to which a semantic theory must be integrated with a syntactic theory in an adequate description of a natural language
The syntactic structure and combination of rules
The meaning of words tells a lot about the meaning of sentences, since sentences are individual words linked together by means of the syntax.
In the sentence;
3- The dog ate the yellow socks.
The words “the dog” form a syntactic unit. This kind of unit, in this case consisting of the definite article and the noun “dog” is called a noun phrase NP.
The words “the yellow sucks” form another NP, containing an adjective in addition to the article and the noun. The combination of words into larger syntactic units is governed by the rules of grammar. There is a rule for combining adjective with- noun, and another rule for combining a noun or an adjective- noun combination. Due to the rules of English grammar these three parts are related as follows: the verb is the predicate of the sentence, the NP “the dog” is its subject and “the yellow socks” is its direct object, the verb and the direct object form a unit known as verb phrase (VP) which is then combined with the subject to form the complete sentence. For every syntactic rule there is a composition rule otherwise grammar would produce strings of words that would be impossible to interpret.
Sentence meaning is an important component of linguistic meaning. It also raises question about the notion of compositionality, and about the interaction of separate components of linguistic knowledge and linguistic theory. Sentence meaning is referred to as the meaning that can be predicted from the semantic relation between the words that the sentence contains.
To build up the concept of “sentence meaning”, one should introduce the notions of “sentence” and “meaning” separately. The notion “sentence”, in linguistics, is an expression in natural language often defined to indicate a grammatical and lexical unit consisting of one or more words that represent distinct concepts. A sentence can include words grouped meaningfully to express a statement, question, exclamation, request or command. While the term “meaning” defined as having two components:
Reference: anything in the referential realm denoted by a word or expression.
Sense: the system of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relationships between a lexical unit and other lexical units in a language.
In linguistics, meaning is communicated through the use of language.
There are many types of sentence meaning that can be illustrated in the following:
1- Proposition meaning:
Which refers to the original sentence before it is derived in to other types.
John gets up late.
Does john gets up late?
John does not get up late.
The above three sentences, though different in forms (one is a statement, one an interrogative and one a negation) have the same proposition:
John gets up late.
3- Cultural meaning:
Which includes culture-specific meaning and culture-associative meaning.
9- Her heart is like a well with 15 buckets of which 7 come up and 8 go down (she felt extremely uneasy and restless).
4- Structural meaning:
Which includes grammatical meaning and textual meaning:
A simple sentence: also called an independent clause contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought.
Some students like to study in the mornings.
b- A compound sentence: contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator, for example:
I tried to speak Spanish, and my friend tried to speak English.
c- A complex sentence: has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. It has always a subordinator such as because, since, after, or when, for example:
The teacher returned the homework after she noticed the error.
5- Pragmatic meaning: which relates the overall situation with the speaker and the hearer, for example:
Compositionality is a property that a language may have and may lack, namely the property that the meaning of any complex expression is determined by the meaning of its parts and the way they are put together. The language can be natural or formal, but it has to be interpreted. That is, meanings are more generally semantic values of some sort must be assigned to linguistic expressions, and compositionality concerns precisely the distribution of these values.
Frege (1892: 62) is generally taken to be the first person to have formulated explicitly the notion of compositionality and to claim that it is an essential feature of human language. It explains that If one now replaces one word of the sentence by another having the same reference, this can have no bearing up on the reference of the sentence.Notions that are approximate the modern concept of compositionality did emerge in medieval times. The meaning of a sentence is based on the meaning of the words. Just as a sentence martially consists in a noun and a verb, so the understanding of it is put together from the understandings of its parts. His principle directly concerns only subject-predicate sentences, it concerns the understanding process rather than meaning itself, and he is unspecific about the nature of the putting together operation. Compositionality is a key notion in linguistics. Compositional meaning results from adding up or relating the meanings of morphemes and words within their phrases and adding up or relating the phrases, phrase by phrase to make meaningful sentences (Hudson, 2000: 12).Compositionality is the view that the meaning of individual words can be used to build up the meanings of larger units: the meaning of the whole is determined by the meaning of its parts and the way in which they are assembled. Compositionality states that the meanings of a phrase or sentence depends both on the meaning of its words and how those words are combined structurally. Some of the semantic relations between words are found between sentences. Two words may be synonyms; two sentences may be paraphrases. They may be paraphrases because they contain synonymous words. Words have antonyms; sentences can be negated. Thus, the opposite of “he is a live” is both “he is dead”, using an antonym, and “he is not a live”. Using syntactic negation, so the relationship among those larger units, is called phrasal or sentential semantics. Principle of compositionality is the meaning of a complex expression that determined by the lexical meanings of its components, their grammatical meaning and the syntactic structure of the whole. So, this principle implies that the meaning of complex expressions are determined by the three sources which are:
The lexical meanings of the basic expressions.
The grammatical forms of the basic expressions.
The syntactic structure of the complex expressions (Lobner, 2002: 15).
The semantic composition is thought of as so-called bottom-up process; it proceeds from the smallest units in syntax to the larger ones. The lexical meanings of the smallest units serve as input for the rules of grammatical meaning, whose output is the input for the combination rules. Meanings of words are derived from the meanings of sentences. Compositionality also shows a convenient division of semantics into the following sub-disciplines:
Lexical semantics: the investigation of expressions meanings stored in the mental lexicon.
Compositional word semantics: the investigation of the meaning of words that are formed by the rules of word information.
Semantics of grammatical forms: the investigation of the meaning contribution of grammatical forms that can be freely chosen.
Sentence semantics: the investigation of the rules that determine how the meaning of the components of a complex expression interact and combine.
Utterance semantics: the investigation of the mechanisms that determine, on the basis of compositionally derived expression meaning, the range of possible utterance meanings (Lobner, 2002: 16).
There are two types of compositionality which are:
Where the meaning of the sentence is reasonably the sum of the parts including the word and morpheme meanings. Each phrase combines with that before or after it to form the next highest constituent, up to the sentence.
Non-linear or discontinuous:
In which the phrase of the members of constituents are separated from one another by word of other phrases. The discontinuous constituents are entraposition in which a clause is separated from the subject noun phrase which it modifies, and appears at the end of the sentence, and wh. Fronting, where, who, when, what and how are fronted to the beginning of questions, even in terms of compositional meaning, they are part of the verb phrase.This principle of compositionality states that a “lexical item” must make approximately the same semantic contribution to each expression in which it occurs.A simple example considers adjective-noun combinations as “brown cow” “black horse”.
It is a trivial fact that the meaning of words and sentence differ in one important point. Meanings of words must simply be known and therefore learned. In every mind, one can carry a huge “lexicon” where all the words everyone knows and their meanings are stored and to every one disposition stored meanings are called lexical meanings. So that, everyone does not have readymade, learned meanings of complete sentences stored in his mind. There are some complex expressions, including sentences that do have affixed-learned meaning such as
– The early bird catches the worm.
Everyone usually can understand sentences, their meanings must be derived from stored linguistic knowledge. This process is called composition. Sentence meaning and compositionality is one of the most important topic in syntactic and semantic studies and this study deals with the similarities between sentence meaning and how to compose individual to build up the meaning of larger units which are represented by meaningful sentences. As syntax that deals with the study of the form and semantics that deals with the study of meaning in English language, syntax cannot be done independently of semantics and vice versa. So, the study of them focused on the study of sentence meaning and compositionality.Sentence meaning is referred to as the meaning that can be predicted from the semantic relation between the words that the sentence contains, to understand this concept, one should study and understand the notions of “sentence” and “meaning” separately. Well-formed sentences which are represented by syntax, every learner can investigate and know the composition of new and larger units of words and understand their meanings which in turn represented by semantics. According to sentence meaning and utterance meaning, the distinction between them derives from the fact that the same sentence may be uttered to perform various speech acts. Compositionality is the view that the meaning of individual words can be used to build up there meanings of larger units one must take into consideration the understanding of both the form of the word as verb, noun, adverb, pronoun, adjective, preposition, conjunction and article, and the function of the word as subject, object, complement, direct or indirect object, subject or object complement, regular or irregular verb, and how these words or units put together structurally to give a grammatical sentence.