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I have come across writing which says

"Trending topics in Twitter do not carry much semantics"

as well as

"Trending topics in Twitter do not carry much meanings"

I am aware that semantics and meanings are similar, what I am curious is when is the right time to use "semantics" vs "meanings"?

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"in Twitter"? Should it not be "on Twitter"? –  Derfder Oct 6 '13 at 8:19
    
That's how it is usually written :( –  cherhan Oct 6 '13 at 8:38
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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Semantics is primarily that branch of the academic discipline of linguistics concerned with ‘the study of linguistic meaning, of words and sentences’ (Katie Wales, ‘A Dictionary of Stylistics’). It is, however, sometimes used loosely to dismiss an argument. A speaker who either doesn’t understand a point that is being made, or who feels someone else is winning the argument, might say ‘Well, that’s just semantics.’ In that kind of context the speaker intends it to mean something like ‘You’re just playing with words, not addressing the substance of the debate.’

The first of your examples sounds as if the writer is using ‘semantics’ to make a fairly banal statement sound more impressive. The second example uses the everyday word ‘meanings’, which is actually likely to be more effective. At least it might be if it had not used the exact words ‘much meanings’. Normal English would be either ‘much meaning’ or, perhaps, ‘many meanings’. Better still might be ‘Trending topics in Twitter don’t mean much.’

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Or ‘Trending topics in Twitter are usually pretty inconsequential.’ –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 '13 at 15:11
    
Or meaning; it can swing both ways because it's so ill-defined. In any event, if plural meanings is to be used, one should also use many instead of much. –  John Lawler Oct 6 '13 at 15:32
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Semantic is an adjective = relative to meaning.

Semantics is a substantive (usually treated as a singular, despite the "s") = branch of knowledge concerned with meaning. It is split into lexical semantics (analysis of words' meanings), and logical semantics (scope of quantifiers, modality, meanings of connectives, presupposition and implication ...).

Meaning is both substantive (= what you wish to express, what is expressed by, what is the importance of), and adjective (= significant, expressive).

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