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Syntagmatic relations Presented by: Jihan Nidhamalddin & Afifa Ahmed. M.A students of Applied Linguistics 2011. Sense relations Relations between the meanings of two or more lexemes. They form the links connecting words in the lexicon.

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Syntagmatic relations

Presented by:



Afifa Ahmed.

M.A students of Applied Linguistics


Sense relations

Relations between the meanings of two or more lexemes. They form the links connecting words in the lexicon.

Paradigmatic relations: elements which stand in opposition to each other – level of choice.

Syntagmatic relations: elements mutually influence each other (specification) – level of combination.

Syntagmatic relations:

(Palmar: 1981, p.68)

Are those that a unit contracts by a virtue of its co-ocurrence with similar units.

e.g. a red door and a green door,

Red and green are in a paradigmatic relation to each other, while each is in a syntagmatic relation with door.

SYNTAGMATIC relations are most crucial in written and spokenlanguage, in DISCOURSE, where the ideas of time, linearity, andsyntactical meaning are important.

-Combinations or relations formed by position within a chain are called SYNTAGMS.

-The terms within a syntagm acquire VALUE only because theystand in opposition to everything before or after them. Each termIS something because it is NOT something else in the sequence.

( and Saussure)

Paradigm Syntagmem

-Discrete elements. * Set of linear of combination of related units.

-Opposites- It is distinction *Contrasts- It is distinction made

within syntagm. made within paradigm.

(distinction refers to linguistically relevant physical difference)

-It is a set of inflectional forms

Built on a single stem. * It is thought of interlinked

in linearOrder in time-space.

(rAma / rAma ne /rAmako…) (rAma ne pAnIpiyA.)

-Relation in absentia * Relation in presentia

-Heterogeneous * Homogeneous

-Idea of class * Idea of function

(Function of a unit is determined by its relation with others.)

-Fillers *Slots


According to (Cruse, 2006: p.164)

Syntagmatic sense relations hold between

items in the same grammatical structure. Relations between individual items are not usually given names on the lines of hyponymy, antonymy, and so forth, but certain effects of putting meanings together are recognised,

such as anomaly (e.g. a light green illness) and

pleonasm (e.g. dental toothache). The requirements for a ‘normal’ combination are described as selectional restrictions or selectional preferences.

Semantic normality:


Semantic normalousness: (Leech:1974, p.155)

Arises when one of the arguments or the predicate of a predication contains a set of contrasting features.

Semantic abnormality:

-Anomaly means irregularity. It is a concept that has been used in many other disciplines, such as astronomy, geophysics, medicine, and religion.

-It is also used in linguistics (particularly in semantics) referring to ‘meaninglessness’.

-Anomaly is a ‘deviation from normal semantic rules to create ‘nonsense’ of something irregular, contradictory.

A famous example of anomaly (meaninglessness) is ‘Colorless green ideas sleep furiously’ by Noam Chomsky.

Selectional restrictions:

Information about which semantic features a word has to have with which the original lexeme can be combined.

-The selectional restrictions of elapse would include the information ‘the subject must have something to do with duration’.

-The selectional restrictions of to kill would contain information ‘the object must be animate’.

-Chomsky invented the sentence Colourless green ideas sleep furiously , which seems impeccable grammatically , yet is lexically completely unacceptable .

-Chomsky later attempted to handle selectional restrictions as part of the grammar,

there is a question and the question is not whether it is possible such restriction as part of the grammar, but rather whether there is any justification at all for doing so.

We do not wish to say

*John drank the meat.(Palmer, 1981: 100)

The lexical restrictions, It has been suggested by (W.Haas), are not a matter of rules but of tendencies:*The dog is scattered. This is not simply a matter of the collocation of dog with scatter, for the verbs scatter is normally used only with plural nouns (The dogs scattered) or with collective nouns (The herd scattered).

(palmer, 1981: 117)


What is a Collocation?

-Firth argued that ‘you shall know a word by the company it keeps’ (Palmer, 1981: 94)

-The words together can mean more than their sum of parts (The Times of India, disk drive)

-Lexemes that tend to occur together – whether it is next to or in close vicinity to each other – are called collocations.


Strong and powerful (adjectives)

-strong tea -powerful car

( Saeed:2009)

Examples of Collocations

-Collocations include noun phrases like strong tea and weapons of mass destruction, phrasal verbs like to make up, and other stock phrases like the rich and powerful.

-a stiff breeze but not ??a stiff wind (while either a strong breeze or a strong wind is okay).

-broad daylight(but not ?bright daylight or ??narrow darkness).

Collocation as relationship between individual words:

pack of wolves

herd of cows

swarm of bees

pod of whales

school of fish

flock of birds

-Collocations can undergo a fossilization process until they become fixed expressions

-They are husband and wife.

rather than

-They are wife and husband.

(Saeed, 2009: 60)

Criteria for Collocations become fixed expressions

-Typical criteria for collocations:




-Collocations usually cannot be translated into other languages word by word.

-A phrase can be a collocation even if it is not consecutive as in (she knocked on his door).

Non-Compositionality become fixed expressions

A phrase is compositional if the meaning can be predicted from the meaning of the parts.

E.g. new companies

A phrase is non-compositional if the meaning cannot be predicted from the meaning of the parts

E.g. hot dog

Collocations are not necessarily fully compositional in that there is usually an element of meaning added to the combination. Eg. strong tea.

Idioms are the most extreme examples of non-compositionality. Eg. to hear it through the grapevine.

Non-Substitutability become fixed expressions

-We cannot substitute near-synonyms for the components of a collocation.

For example

We can’t say yellow wine instead of white wineeven though yellow is as good a description of the color of white wine as white is (it is kind of a yellowish white).

-Many collocations cannot be freely modified with additional lexical material or through grammatical transformations (Non-modifiability).

E.g.- white wine, but not whiter wine

-mother in law, but not mother in laws

Linguistic Subclasses of Collocations become fixed expressions

-Light verbs:

Verbs with little semantic content like make, take and do.

E.g. make lunch, take easy,

-Verb particle constructions

E.g. to go down

-Proper nouns

E.g. Bill Clinton

-Terminological expressionsrefer to concepts and objects in technical domains.

E.g. Hydraulic oil filter

Idiomaticization become fixed expressions:

-The closer a syntagmatic relationship (i.e. the more likely two lexemes are to occur together and the less likely they are to occur independently), the more the combination moves towards an idiomatic expression.

-Idioms themselves are very inflexible and they are losing their compositional meanings, and ‘idioms involve collocation of special kind’(Palmer 1976: 98).

kick the bucket – has nothing to do with kicking or a bucket

Mutual influence become fixed expressions

Collocates usually also influence our understanding of lexemes


Collocates help to find the intended meaning of homonyms or polysemes.

I cannot bear this any longer

bear = stand

I like the bear with the long ears

bear = animal

Have you heard Ron Sexsmith’s new single

single = CD

Specification become fixed expressions

Collocates help to specify (make it more precise) the meaning of a lexeme.

We had not tree this Christmas.

tree = Christmas tree (fir tree)

Did you see the tree with the coconuts?

tree = palm tree

Selection: become fixed expressions

Collocates help to select a particular part or aspect of the meaning of a lexeme.

she touched his head

head = physical

We have to use our heads to solve this problem

head = psychological

Collocation and grammar become fixed expressions

Chomsky is concerned with restriction on the co-occurrence of items with in a sentence, so that we shall not permit

-the idea cut the tree.

-I drank the bread.

-he elapsed the man.

Here the items do not fit the verbs.

(Palmer, 1976: 100).

Collocations and culture become fixed expressions

Culture can be defined as a repertoire of concepts (including ideas of the world and values) shared by a community.

The sharing of this repertoire happens in and through verbal communication. A close analysis of the meaning potential of a language and, more importantly, of which meanings are used in which combinations thus allows insights into the construction of culture.

Presupposition: become fixed expressions(Richards, Platt and Platt,1992, p.288)

What a speaker or writer assumes that the receiver of the message already knows. E.g.,

Speaker A: what about inviting Simon tonight?

Speaker B: what a good idea; then he can give Monica a lift.

Here, the presupossitions are, amongst others, that speakers A & B know who Simon & Monicaare, that Simon has a vehicle, most probably a car, and that Monica has no vehicle at the moment or unable to drive.

Presupposition: become fixed expressions(Saeed,2009, p.102)

-In ordinary language, presuppose something means to assume it, and the narrower technical use in semantics is related to this.

-Presupposition has been an important topic in semantics: the 1970s in particular saw lively debates in the literature. The interest in presupposition can be seen as coinciding with the development of pragmatics as a sub-discipline.

- become fixed expressionsThe importance of presupposition to the pragmatics debate is that, it seems to lie at the borderline of such a division.

In some respects, presupposition seems like entailment: a fairly automatic relationship, involving, which seems free of contextual effects. Presuppositions seem sensitive to facts about the context of utterance.

(Saeed, 2009,102)

Two approaches to presupposition: become fixed expressions

-The first appraoch viewed that sentences as external objects: we don’t worry too much about the process of producing them, or the individuality of the speaker or writer and their influence. Meaning is seen as an attribute of sentences rather than something constructed by the participants.

-The second approach views that sentences as the utterance of individuals engaged in a communication act. The aim is about modelling the strategies that speakers and hearers use to communicate with one another.

(Saeed,2009, p.103)

Presuppositions: become fixed expressions (Palmer, 1981, p.167)

Are ‘constant under negation’ as (Kiparsky and Kiparsky 1971)that they logically implied by both a positive sentence and its negative counterpart.

E.g.-It isn’t significant that John came early.

-I don’t regret that she spoke.

These two sentences have the same presuppositions as the positive sentences and the example like below:

-The King of France is bald.

-The King of France isn’t bald.

From these two sentences, we can comprehend that it is presupposed that there is a King of France.

Palmer become fixed expressions identified that Strawson(1964)who pointed out that, in using expressions like the King of France (referring expressions), the speaker assumes that the hearer can identify the person or thing being spoken about. Therefore, he does not assert that person or thing exists, but only presupposes his or its existence. If the person or thing does not exist there is ‘presupposition failure’ and the sentence is not false; it is neither true nor false, and there is a ’truth-value gap’.


Constancy under negation: become fixed expressions

The presupposition of a statement will remain true even when that statement is negated.

Other examples of constancy under negation:

p: Dave is angry because Jim crashed the car.

q: Jim crashed the car

p >> q

NOT p: Dave isn’t angry because Jim crashed the car

q: Jim crashed the car

NOT p >> q ( entail/-ppt.)

As become fixed expressionsLyons (1995, p.298) stated that there are two kinds of presupposition:

Existential and sortal or (categorial).

E.g. Whenever uses the expression ‘the woman’ or ‘the man’, in what we may call, loosely, an ordinary context, is committed to the existential presupposition that the referent exists, and the sortal presupposition that it is of a particular sort or category: the category of persons.

Types of Presupposition become fixed expressions

Presuppositions are associated with the use of a large number of words, phrases and structures.

Theselinguistic forms are considered as indicators ofpotential presupposition, which can only become actual presupposition in contexts with speakers.

( entail/-ppt.)

1- Existential presupposition: become fixed expressions

Entitiesnamed by the speaker and assumed to be present

- noun phrase.

- possessive constructions

“David’s car is new” we can presuppose that David exists and that he has a car.

Some lexical triggers:

Definite noun phrases:

The student fell asleep.

The student didn’t fall asleep

David is a bachelor (David is an unmarried male person)

2- Factive presupposition: become fixed expressions

identified by the presence of some verbs such as "know“, "realize“, “be glad”, “be sorry”, etc.

Some lexical triggers:

Factive verbs:

Tracy realized Pat ate a sandwich.

Pat regretted eating a sandwich.

Pat liked eating a sandwich.

I was aware of the class cancellation on Monday

They announced the winner of the contest.

I’m glad it’s over.

She didn’t realize that she was ill.

3- Lexical presupposition: become fixed expressions

In using one word, the speaker can act as if another meaning will be understood. For instance:

Marystopped running. (>>He used to run.)You are late again. (>> You were late before.)

Are you still such a bad driver? (>> You were a bad driver)

"stop“, "again“ “still” are taken to presuppose another (unstated) concept.

Some lexical triggers:

Change of state verbs:

Pat stopped eating a sandwich (at 2pm).

Pat started eating a sandwich (at 2pm).

Verbs of judgment:

Tracy blamed Pat for eating the sandwich.

Tracy faults Pat for eating the sandwich.

Susan is accused of X (X is bad)

Susan was criticized for X (X is bad and Susan did X)

4- Structural presupposition: become fixed expressions

It is the assumption associated with the use of certain structures.

- wh-question constructions.

When did she travel to the USA? ( >> she travelled)

Where did you buy the book? (>> you bought the book)

The listener perceives that the information presented is necessarily true, or intended as true by the speaker.

5- Non- factive presupposition: become fixed expressions

It is an assumption referred to something that is not true.

For example, verbs like "dream", "imagine" and "pretend" are used with the presupposition that what follows is not true.

I dreamed that I was rich. (>> I was not rich)

We imagined that we were in London. (>> We were not in London)

6- Counterfactual presupposition:

It is the assumption that what is presupposed is not only untrue, but is the opposite of what is true, or contrary to facts.

  • conditional structures,

    If you were my daughter, I would not allow you to do this. ( >> you are not my daughter)

    If I were rich I would buy a Ferrari (>> I’m not rich)

Speakers assume certain information is already known by their listeners.

This is part of what iscommunicated but not said.

Presuppositions and entailments

Two aspects of what is communicated but not said.

( entail/-ppt.)

P their listeners.resupposition:The information that a speaker assumes to be already known. (The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language, 1987)

Implicit meanings conveyed by the speaker through the use of particular words.

Ex: "The Cold War has ended" presupposes that the existence of the entities it refers to, in this case the "Cold War".

((Speakers, not sentences, have presuppositions

Entailment:is not a pragmatic concept.

It is defined as what logically follows from what is asserted in the utterance.

(Sentences, not speakers, have entailments)

Speakers have presuppositions while sentences have entailments.


Susan’s sister bought two houses.

This sentence presupposesthat Susan exists and that she has a sister.

This sentence has the entailmentsthat Susan’s sister bought something; now she has 2 houses, a house, and other similar logical consequences. The entailments are communicated without being said and are not dependent on the speaker’s intention.

The projection problem entailments.

In many cases presuppositions don’t survive to become the meaning of complex sentences.


They are “destroyed” by entailments

The entailments are more powerful of presuppositions.


sentences that stand in an implicational relation, where the truth of the first guarantees the truth of the second.

-The anarchist assassinated the emperor.

-The emperor died.

So, the first sentence entailsthe second.

A entailments. : Everyone passed the examination.

B : No-one failed the examination.


-wheneverAis true, Bis true

-the information that Bcontains is contained in the information that Aconveys.

-a situation describable by Amust also be a situationdescribable by B.

-AandNOT B are contradictory.

We take entailment relations to be those that specifically arise from linguistic structure

[Generally speaking, entailment is not a pragmatic concept(i.e. having to do with the speaker meaning), but it is considered a purely logical concept.]

Presuppositions vs. entailments entailments.

-Utterances and their presuppositions.

1) She has stopped smoking.


She used to smoke.

2) My dog ate my bag.


I have a dog, and I have (had) a bag.

-Utterances and their entailments.

The emperor was assassinated


1) Someone was assassinated.

2) The emperor died.

Presuppositions are different from entailments. entailments.

1)She hasn’t stopped smoking.

Still presupposes

She used to smoke.

2) My dog didn’t eat my bag.

Still presupposes

I have a dog, and I (still, it seems) have a bag.While,

The emperor wasn’t assassinated.

Does not entail any more

1)Someone was assassinated.

2)The emperor died.


Sources: entailments.

1-Cruse, Alan.2006. A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics: Edinburgh University Press.

2-Leech,Geoffery.1974. Semantics. Great Britain.

3-Lyons, John. 1995. Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.

4-Palmer, F.R. 1981.Semantics, 2nd ed. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press.

5-Richards,Jack C., Platt, and Platt. 1992. Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. 2nd ed. Great Britain.

6-Saeed, John I. 2009. Semantics.3rd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.…/pre-entail-ppt. Structuralism and Saussure.