Questions relating to semantics, the study of meaning.

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8
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8answers
452 views

Why is this use of the word “meaning” not quite right?

Today one of my students gave me some writing as part of her preparation for a Cambridge Proficiency exam. She was describing how after she'd moved away to go to university she'd temporarily lost ...
2
votes
1answer
41 views

Is there any relation between the meanings of the word “cataract”?

Oxford defines "cataract" as "a steep waterfall" as well as gives the more common meaning of the word i.e. the medical condition that causes a loss of sight. Also, "cataract", as meaning ...
1
vote
2answers
52 views

How should I use “as” and what is its semantic nuance?

I wrote a sentence that didn't sound right to my ears. As a leader, he did not act accordingly. What I intended to say was: even though he was the leader, he did not act accordingly, as he ...
2
votes
1answer
28 views

Does the use of “until” entail that the verb in “until” will happen?

For example, in a sentence like This machine will keep working until the button is pressed. Does this entail that the button will be pressed? Is a sentence like This machine will keep ...
1
vote
2answers
349 views

What is a non-awkward way of referencing your child[ren] to a 3rd party of the opposite gender as yourself?

Here's the situation: You and your spouse are talking with a third person who is of the opposite gender as yourself. e.g., my wife and I are talking with a woman named - let's call her Joan. If I'm ...
2
votes
1answer
44 views

Indolence vs lassitude? [closed]

I came across this sentence: "Jim and Huck spent days of indolent lassitude on the craft." I wasn't quite sure what to make of the phrase 'indolent lassitude' because to my mind they both sort of ...
6
votes
2answers
167 views

Historical differences in usage of “Mrs” for “mistress” or “missus”

The title Mrs. stands for mistress, but some English native speakers claim mistress is only used to indicate the woman with whom one has an (illicit) affair and that missus is the long version of Mrs. ...
0
votes
1answer
42 views

Split horizontally or vertically – which one is which?

Given some object, you can split it with a horizontal cut into two objects that are laid out vertically (above each other), or you can split it with a vertical cut into two objects that are laid out ...
0
votes
3answers
79 views

Is “exceptioned” a word?

The question is a little more complex than the title states. Exceptioned is not in the dictionary. But I am not trying to use this as a verb. I work in IT. We keep a list of exceptioned words that we ...
3
votes
2answers
55 views

'A / One / At least one student entered the room.' Are these the same? (truth-conditionally)

I just wonder if the two following sentences are truth-conditionally the same. Sentence 1 essentially means there existed a student who entered the room, and this situation includes two, three or more ...
0
votes
1answer
55 views

What is the right way to say “has recovered to within a threshold”?

Let's take the following sentence: X has recovered to within the maximum threshold of Y. What's really the right way to say this? Some ideas that come to mind are: to within the maximum ...
0
votes
1answer
64 views

Force somebody to do something vs. force somebody into doing something

Is there a difference between 'to force somebody to do something' and 'force somebody into doing something'? What about other expressions like 'persuade sb to do/into doing sth', 'trick sb to do/into ...
0
votes
1answer
39 views

“going through someone's car” [closed]

I encountered the following sentence: He and two friends were going through someone's car and someone caught them and shot at them, killing my student. What does "go through someone's car" mean? ...
1
vote
1answer
47 views

Midnight semantics

I received an email with a discount code valid 'until Saturday midnight' but when I went to use it on Saturday lunchtime it had expired already, at 00:00 Saturday morning. My understanding was that ...
3
votes
1answer
96 views

Abstract nouns: countable and uncountable

What is the element that causes many abstract nouns to be both countable and uncountable (not with different meanings)? To illustrate the point, a word like taste as a noun when it means "the ...
3
votes
1answer
95 views

difference between the prefix “un” and “not” [closed]

is there any plausible way to seperate the semantics of undefined - not defined or undetermined - not determined ?
1
vote
1answer
63 views

Nag vs. Complain

I read a text in which a guy was complaining to his friend about school. I noticed the title of the passage was "nagging". But as far as I know nag means "annoy someone by complaining a lot about ...
1
vote
0answers
43 views

What does it mean when someone uses two periods? [duplicate]

In past communications with non-native English speakers, I occasionally see the use of two periods. Some examples: Ok.. let's meet soon. Sounds good.. Thursday Meeting.. This seems to ...
1
vote
1answer
40 views

Medium or medium-sized?

We say a medium-sized pan/book/house, but medium height/amount/size. But I came across an example in Cambridge Advanced learner's Dictionary: "Chop one medium carrot." I wonder if we can use medium ...
0
votes
0answers
42 views

Shown doing: is it the grammatical passive?

I encountered this sentence today. The man is shown robbing the store. It is perfectly clear that this sentence is in passive form. However, if I reconvert it back to the active form, the ...
3
votes
1answer
54 views

scope of 'everybody': infelicitous use of 'it'

Irene Heim claims the second 'it' is not felicitously used in this sequence of words. It must sound awkward. Everybody found a cat and kept it. It ran away. (source: (5) on page 225 of 'File Change ...
5
votes
6answers
135 views

To make your personal enemy or rival

I'm watching the GOP debate, and I'm noticing that some candidates are picking on Hillary. Is there a verb for an act where a person castigates someone else in hopes of making that person his or her ...
0
votes
1answer
56 views

Usage of “hitch"

I always see the expression “his breath hitched” or “his breathing hitched.” However, as far as I can tell in the dictionary, the word “hitched” does not denote anything I can relate to breathing. Of ...
-1
votes
1answer
75 views

Is there a group called 'meaningless sentences'?

Some sentences, like I am dead, I am lying, I am sleeping etc. do not convey a meaning. Is there a grammatical class or any other grouping for such expressions?
0
votes
3answers
31 views

Does using 2 Present Simple verbs create ambiguity in their ordering?

One of the Facebook configuration features has the following label: "If you don't want a Facebook account after you pass away, you can request to have your account permanently deleted." My friend ...
4
votes
1answer
59 views

John ate vs John is too stubborn to talk to

I was intrigued by an observation made by Noam Chomsky in this video, namely that if we take the sentence John ate an apple and drop an apple to get John ate John ate an apple. John ate. we ...
2
votes
2answers
55 views

Understanding use of “Pragmatic” in language [closed]

I struggle with the use of the word pragmatic in everyday language. And in this post, I hope to get as much input as possible. In a recent tweet, a guy asked Ann Coulter "what is you're alternative ...
59
votes
8answers
14k views

If cow = beef, pig = pork, and deer = venison, then where is the word for human = [flesh as food source]?

Maybe it's the season of Halloween, because it's kind of a grim question, but I have seriously wondered from a language point of view - is there a word for human as 'food-meat', or has there ever ...
0
votes
0answers
68 views

Familiar 'you know' or 'you think you know'

When you say "This place is familar", Do you mean 'you know this place' or 'you think you know this place but aren't sure' ? What about the noun phrase "a familiar place"? You say "That girl looks ...
0
votes
2answers
73 views

Meaning of “for each man, seven of every eight women are ineligible marriage partners.”

I couldn't understand the meaning of this sentence: The Mundugumors of New Guinea extend the incest taboo so far as for each man seven of eight women are ineligible marriage partners. I would ...
-1
votes
1answer
47 views

Can I refer to the object of the previous list item with “it”?

Is it ambiguous to use it to refer to the dog in the following sentence? I was seen driving the car, hitting the dog, and burying it.
-1
votes
1answer
10 views

Is the phrase “proximity span” correct?

A span is the distance between two points in this case. For example, the span of a bridge from end to end. Is it correct semantically to say the span of a proximity or distance?
0
votes
1answer
174 views

Semantic difference between “spectator”, “beholder”, “observer” and “viewer”

As I understand it (not being a native speaker), a beholder has a more active relation to the scene or object he is beholding. It is "in the eye of the beholder", but not in the eye of the spectator ...
1
vote
1answer
32 views

How shall I understand the sentence “Democrats present a Republican as the the face of the Republican Party”?

In another, he said younger Republican lawmakers “despised” Mr. Boehner. “They are repelled by his personal behavior,” he wrote. “He is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any ...
0
votes
1answer
215 views

“confer” (“cf.”) vs “see also” [closed]

I used to think that "confer" ("cf.") is to be used to refer to another source discussing the same issue, or making the same argument etc. But it seems some (many?) people use it instead of "see ...
-1
votes
4answers
83 views

Does it make sense to 'lift' an obligation?

I want to say that an obligation that was present previously has been removed in a new approach. Can I say that in the new approach, the obligation has been lifted?
0
votes
2answers
101 views

What is wrong with “cotton field”?

The news is very sad. The guy, Vester Lee Flanagan, was very crazy. (Please see the news: ...
-1
votes
4answers
102 views

What is the precise meaning of “preliminary to”? [closed]

Clarification: The point of this question is this: does Event A being "preliminary to" Event B require that Event B has happened or will have happened? Consider the following sentence: "Slaughter ...
-1
votes
2answers
148 views

“dick all” meaning nothing, AmE, slang [duplicate]

"dick" has developed a lot of meanings. Pons.eu lists five different meanings. The semantic development of most of them can be understood, but "dick all/dick" for nothing is a bit mysterious (AmE, ...
0
votes
2answers
109 views

Is the sentence “That guy will make fall in love all those girls” correct?

Is the sentence "That guy will make fall in love all those girls" correct, like "all those girls will fall in love with that guy", can I rewrite it like above? Thanks for the attention!
0
votes
1answer
54 views

Is the phrase “I will infatuate you” correct? [closed]

Can I say "I will infatuate that girl" or "I will infatuate you", meaning that I will do something to someone and then that someone will become infatuated with me? Does it make sense? Thanks for the ...
0
votes
1answer
61 views

How to interpret confusing statements involving either/or/not? [duplicate]

I have a simple problem basically I am unable to understand the meaning of some questions involving or/not, and using comma with and. I have the following questions:- 1.Whats the meaning of, say , ...
18
votes
8answers
2k views

Is there a term for ascribing acts of the human mind to non-human objects, and when is it appropriate to do this?

Nota bene: English isn't my native language, so when I say acts of the human mind, I attempt to generalize things such as making assumptions, drawing conclusions and (to some extent) to reject. To me ...
2
votes
4answers
682 views

Is there an opposite term for [sic]?

In academics, the note [sic] is used to make it clear that material lifted from a secondary source was incorrect as the author found it, as opposed to a mistake in the text. Is there an opposite term ...
0
votes
1answer
62 views

Looking for a word to semantically represent the input data to a template

I am trying to come up with a very specific semantically narrow term for the information/data that fed into a template to materialize an output. data, info, input and the like are to generic and ...
0
votes
1answer
78 views

Verbal compounds such as come-to-be, come-to-know, come-to-X

Reading about intellectual history and the history of natural science, I have very often come across the expression to come-to-be as a synonym for to come into being, to start to exist, to originate, ...
4
votes
1answer
116 views

What is the difference between 'ceremonial' and 'ceremonious'?

Even having looked in the OED I am still slightly unclear as to which contexts require the adjective ceremonious and which ceremonial. The OED treatment of ceremonious is as below with some of the ...
4
votes
3answers
229 views

Difference of “I am just an ABC” vs “I am but a XYZ”

As far as I (non-native speaker) can tell, these two sentences have the same meaning: I'm just a humble merchant I'm but a humble merchant However I wonder if there is some subtle ...
6
votes
3answers
191 views

“This page intentionally blank” … but it isn't!

We are all familiar with user manuals or documents with pages printed with "intentionally blank" ... but with those words on them, they are no longer blank! I'm pretty sure I saw a user manual once ...
0
votes
3answers
61 views

Hypernym for “query” and “report” [closed]

One hypernym for teacher and student is person. Vehicle is a hypernym of car and lorry.... Is there a hypernym for query and report?