Questions relating to semantics, the study of meaning.

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40
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17answers
4k views

If I were you, I'd apologise to *my* (OR) *your* mum

I'm stuck with this example which I don't know how to solve A: I've said bad things to my mum. B: If I were you, I'd apologise to your mum. Is it suppose to be 'your', or 'my' instead? My ...
7
votes
5answers
12k views

Is the phrase “it's just a matter of semantics” meaningless?

I hear this phrase from time to time, and I really don't know what it means. Two people are debating, and one says "the difference between your position and mine is just a matter of semantics." ...
1
vote
7answers
176 views
2
votes
2answers
104 views

Job interview question [closed]

I'm a French man in my late 20s and I'm applying for a job for a prestigious American company. I've had a job interview with an American woman and she told me all was well but I'd have to be molded to ...
3
votes
1answer
75 views

What does “what for” mean and where did it come from?"

There is a fight scene in one of my favorite movies in which the main character says "Give them what for!" I've hear this term many times before (usually from old south-eastern Americans,) but no ...
1
vote
1answer
61 views

Lexicology, Semasiology

Is metonymy considered to be linguistic or extralinguistic factor of semantic change? For example crown for a monarchy
5
votes
2answers
123 views

How to analyze lightly varying senses of adjective *very*

Use of very as an adjective is (in my experience) most frequently attested in phrases like ...the very person I was looking for. To use adjective very with the indefinite article sounds quite ...
4
votes
4answers
136 views

Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE

Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE The meaning of this expression is: in the region where I live. Once I tried to find out how a word meaning a part of the body can develop an expression where it ...
0
votes
1answer
41 views

“Even though” contradiction

Clause Run! This single-word command is also a clause, even though it does seem to have a subject. With a direct command, it is not necessary to include the subject, since it is obviously the ...
1
vote
1answer
62 views

Where using “title” instead of “name” is justified?

Merriam-Webster and many other dictionaries defines Title as something that can be used instead of the Name of that thing. For example, based on what I understood, it seems logical to use these ...
3
votes
3answers
244 views

Can you be sent on a quest or does it then become a mission?

A discussion on the Arqade sister site brought up an interesting question that I thought I'd share here. What is the difference between a quest and a mission? Given the roots of the words, quest ...
6
votes
6answers
631 views

“Semantic”s relation to “Pedantic” [closed]

When pointing out to my friends one day that I should have used a different word in a previous conversation, I mentioned that I was being pedantic. They, ironically, corrected me saying I was being ...
2
votes
4answers
19k views

What is the difference between syntax and semantics? [closed]

As a computer scientist and a writing hobbyist, I really ought to know these terms' meanings for memory. Can anyone clarify the difference between syntax and semantics, and provide some examples? For ...
1
vote
2answers
99 views

“A and B both are” vs. “A and B are both” vs. “Both A and B are” vs. “Both of A and B are”?

A and B both are very good; A and B are both very good. Both A and B are very good. Both of A and B are very good. Are there subtle differences between the four sentences above?
8
votes
4answers
23k views

Is a thumb also a finger?

The thumb has a different name compared to the other fingers (index, middle, ring, little) and it does not end with "finger". Also, when referring to the hand, I have seen literature where it is ...
0
votes
2answers
153 views

When the waitress at a diner calls her male customer a ''good girl'' after getting tipped, is it meant to be offensive?

My friend got called that and since neither of us are American, it just sounded offensive to us.
9
votes
5answers
7k views

“Satire” versus “sarcasm”

I looked up the two words on wikitionary & got this: satire: A literary technique of writing or art which principally ridicules its subject often as an intended means of provoking or ...
5
votes
5answers
742 views

What word describes text having a different meaning backwards and forwards?

Jonathan Reed's poem 'Lost Generation' is a pessimistic view of the future if read forwards. However, if you read it backwards linewise (not wordwise), it is still semantically meaningful, but the ...
3
votes
2answers
157 views

English Syntax Rules Based on Word Choice

I was reading the Wikipedia article on Animacy and came across something I found to be very interesting: The higher animacy a referent has, the less preferable it is to use the preposition of for ...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Difference between “fluency” and “fluidity”

Fluent seems to most commonly refer to language mastery, but in that context isn't it just saying that its delivery is fluid? If so, am I communicating something different when using one over another ...
1
vote
1answer
73 views

'in appreciation' vs. 'appreciatively' [closed]

Is using the adverbial prepositional phrase in appreciation in place of the adverb appreciatively convey exactly the same meaning? I'm attempting to avoid the use of the adverb "appreciatively" in ...
2
votes
1answer
260 views

Difference between the terms 'famous' & 'infamous'; 'valuable' & 'invaluable'

Question in Short: Why is it that the terms valuable and invaluable mean almost the same thing while the terms famous and infamous are almost semantically opposite in meaning? That is, one is used to ...
0
votes
1answer
84 views

Whatever happened to thou and thee? Thy words have become more dreary [closed]

Why did thee, thou and thy come to disappear from English? I am looking for solid explanations, rather than observations that these are still used in dialects in the north. Please explain cause for ...
1
vote
4answers
96 views

Is there an antonym for the word dislocation?

For my PhD research I am writing about the metaphorical displacement of people (as in "they drove me out of their group", "he was snatched away before his time"). Essentially there are a variety of ...
0
votes
2answers
38 views

Be proud of vs Take credit for

Does I'm proud of something imply I'm taking credit for something? I just observed that the former phrase only works with my own accomplishments or with related people, but not with unrelated ...
0
votes
1answer
39 views

Is this a logically symmetric relation: “X must be consistent with Y”

Does it follow that if I make the statement "X must be consistent with Y" that "Y must be consistent with X"? I'm hoping to hear this answered from a linguistics perspective, specifically related to ...
2
votes
1answer
67 views

“None” and “Any” [closed]

Can anyone tell me more about the relationship between the words none and any I'm specifically interested in their grammatical overlap, when they share a similar grammatical function in a sentence, ...
0
votes
2answers
65 views

a year later VS a year on

When one wishes to say that something will happen in the future, one would say, for example, either ten years later or ten years on. What I would like to know is if there are any semantic or stylistic ...
1
vote
1answer
54 views

Did the author of the following text mean “meat?”

"Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves." Is there a ...
-1
votes
1answer
124 views

Which is correct: I'll be moving next month or I'll be shifting next month?

For changing one's home from one place to another, I've heard people in western part of the world using the sentence: I'll be moving next month. In India, even in the English news channels, ...
-1
votes
2answers
59 views

Usage of 'bovinely' when fastness or slowness are involved

I know that in English 'I tried to go as slow as possible' and 'I tried to go as fast as possible' have a very different meaning, but I'm unsure how 'bovinely', before 'possible', change that ...
0
votes
2answers
189 views

Where in the world does “a lift” mean “a ride in the car”?

In the United States and Canada, when someone asks you for "a lift" or you offer "a lift", you are speaking about riding in a car with them. However, in England and other places, a "lift" is an ...
6
votes
1answer
330 views

Why and how did “a sensible boy” become “intelligent and prudent”?

Italians often get confused by sensible and sensitive. If I tell them He's a sensible boy; he studies hard, saves his money, and plans ahead. They are quite bewildered. To them, sensible is ...
1
vote
0answers
26 views

“Went to school happily” vs. “happily went to school” vs. “went happily to school” [duplicate]

The boy went to school happily. The boy happily went to school. The boy went happily to school. If the adverb “happily” is allowed to be put in the three places above, what are the ...
7
votes
5answers
1k views
12
votes
3answers
995 views

How are pronouns resolved?

Are pronouns in English resolved syntactically or semantically? Do they always refer to the closest matching noun? A wikipedia article has these examples: We gave the bananas to the monkeys ...
1
vote
2answers
190 views

Humans or people?

This is the sentence I've read: Freedom is something humans in all times have fought for. I am under the impression that the use of humans is not adequate here. Thus, my question is: when to ...
1
vote
1answer
169 views

Does the American English hesitation sound “uh” imply ignorance, like “d’uh”?

In British English, a pause in speech is usually marked by the word “er” or “erm” and means something like “let me think”, or “what’s the word”. There is no implication of anything other than ...
31
votes
6answers
2k views

Does apologizing entail recognizing being at fault?

Consider this example: I'm sorry if you got the impression that I meant to insult you. That was not my intention. Would it be correct to say that the above person apologized? All the ...
0
votes
1answer
436 views

How Many is “A Few”? [duplicate]

I'm preparing some marketing materials for my boss, and one section contains the phrase "Here are a few examples:". The list that follows contains two items, which strikes me as being incorrect, ...
8
votes
2answers
779 views

Is there a clear delineation between the usages of 'this' and 'that' in American English?

One of my linguistics professors speaks English as a second language, and remarked that she never knows which of the two is appropriate. Given a list of examples, all native speakers in the classroom ...
1
vote
1answer
815 views

Is “to” inclusive in “I worked at company X from April 2012 to April 2013”? [duplicate]

I have a question about the use of the word to as a time proposition. Is to inclusive in the following sentence? I worked at company X from April 2012 to April 2013.
0
votes
1answer
57 views

Can Whilst only be used in mid-clause?

According to this entry in the Urban Dictionary on "Whilst" (2nd definition on this page: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=whilst), it can only be used in mid-clause. I have skimmed ...
18
votes
4answers
20k views

“Liberty” versus “freedom”

What is the difference, if any, between liberty and freedom? Does it convey the same meaning if "Status of liberty" is replaced with "status of freedom" ? or every occurrence of "liberty" in ...
1
vote
2answers
267 views

“of both which” or “of which both”

Consider the following sentence: This takes a lot of time and money to keep going, ... I have little. Which would fit best in that ellipsis? of both which or of which both or both of which In my ...
3
votes
2answers
309 views

“noun of noun” vs. “noun+noun”?

I wonder if there is a significant difference at the semantic or pragmatic levels in using the compounds structures noun of noun or noun+noun. For example, is it the same to say "the consumption of ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Use of “promise”, “guarantee”, “swear” and “assure” for future and past

Can verbs such as promise, guarantee, swear and assure be used to mean convince others that something will (not) happen in the future or did (not) happen in the past? In other words, are they used for ...
1
vote
1answer
217 views

How to organize semantically a list of words that describes the weight (or size) of objects? [closed]

Let's say I have a list of words that describes the weight (or size) of objects, like heavy, strong, light, soft. Which words should be used to have a complete semantic list from the heaviest element ...
1
vote
1answer
110 views

“Keith does not a hint take” or “A hint does Keith not take”

While wasting time on the internet (as I am wont to do), I came across a video in which somebody was criticizing a blog-post and corrected the statement *Keith does not a hint take. supplying his ...