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Semantics. Semantic features A Seminar to be presented by: Hawzheen Rahman & Kawa Qadir. Semantic Features. General Issues Componential Analysis Lexical Relations. Semantic Features.

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Semantic features

A Seminar to be presented by:

Hawzheen Rahman


Kawa Qadir

semantic features
Semantic Features

General Issues

  • Componential Analysis
  • Lexical Relations
semantic features1
Semantic Features
  • Asemantic feature is a notational method which can be used to express the existence or non-existence of pre-established semantic properties by using plus and minus signs [+ / -].
  • Semantic propertiesare those aspects of a linguistic unit, such as a morpheme, word, or sentence, that contribute to the meaning of that unit.
semantic features2
Semantic Features

Man is [+HUMAN], [+MALE], [+ADULT]

Woman is [+HUMAN], [-MALE], [+ADULT]

Boy is [+HUMAN], [+MALE], [-ADULT]

Girl is [+HUMAN], [-MALE], [-ADULT]

componential analysis
Componential Analysis
  • Componential analysis, also called feature analysis or contrast analysis, refers to the description of the meaning of words through structured sets of semantic features, which are given as “present”, “absent” or “indifferent with reference to feature”.
componential analysis1
Componential Analysis
  • Componential analysis is a method typical of structural semantics which analyzes the structure of a word's meaning.
  • Thus, it reveals the culturally important features by which speakers of the language distinguish different words in the domain
componential analysis2
Componential Analysis


  • Man = [+ male], [+ mature]
  • woman = [– male], [+ mature]
  • boy = [+ male], [– mature]
  • girl[– male] [– mature]
  • child[+/– male] [– mature].

By this, we realize that the word girl can have three basic factors (or semantic properties): human, young, andfemale.

binary features
Binary Features
  • In Componential Analysis, Binary Feature is used.

A Binary Feature assumes both the [+] and [-] Features.

Girl, woman, sister, wife, queen [+FEMALE]

Boy, man, brother, husband, king [+MALE]

Child, person, sibling, spouse, monarch [sex not specified] (Lobner, 2002:133)

binary feature
Binary Feature

The features[FEMALE] and [MALE] are not just different but also complementary.

We can replace them with one binary feature.

Another example is:

Woman [+FEMALE], [+ADULT], [+HUMAN]

Bachelor[-FEMALE], [+ADULT], [+HUMAN], [-MARRIED]

Spinster [+FEMALE], [+ADULT], [+HUMAN], [-MARRIED]


So woman is [+/- MARRIED]

(Saeed, 2002:261)

lexical relations
Lexical Relations
  • Semantic features can be used to describe differences betweenAntonyms, Hyponymy, and Synonymy.


  • Semantic Components might help us to define Lexical Relations.
lexical relations1
Lexical Relations
  • Hyponymy (Inclusion)

Hyponymy can be captured by binary features.

Let’s examine Semantic Features (components) ofWomanandSpinster.

Woman [+FEMALE], [+ADULT], [+HUMAN]

Spinster[+FEMALE], [+ADULT], [+HUMAN], [- MARRIED]

We can see that thespinsteris a hyponym ofwoman.

lexical relations2
Lexical Relations
  • And by comparing the sets of components we could define hyponymy as:

A lexical item (P) can be defined as a hyponym of (Q), if all the features of (Q) are contained in the feature specification of (P).

Woman is [+/- married], but

Spinster is only [- married]

(Saeed, 2002:260)

lexical relations3
Lexical Relations
  • Antonymy, or Incompatibility

By analyzing semantic components we also might be able to deal with some kinds of Antonymy or Incompatibility. E.g. we examine the wordsBachelor, Spinster and Wife.

Bachelor[MALE], [ADULT], [HUMAN], [-MARRIED].



lexical relations4
Lexical Relations
  • The words bachelor, spinster and wife are incompatible.
  • And the following definition can derived from a comparison of their semantic components:

Lexical items P,Q,R are incompatible if they share a set of features but differ from each other by one or more contrasting features.

lexical relations5
Lexical Relations

Bachelor[MALE], [ADULT], [HUMAN], [-MARRIED].



  • Thus spinster is incompatible with bachelor by contrast of gender specification; and with wife by the marital specification.

(Saeed, 2002:261)

semantic field
Semantic Field
  • Besides basic properties of semantics, semantic property is also sometimes used to describe the semantic components of a word, such as:
  • Man assumes that the referent is human, male, and adult. and

Female is a common component of girl, woman, and actress.

In this sense, semantic properties are used to define the semantic field of a word or set of words.

semantic field1
Semantic Field
  • A semantic field is a technical term in the discipline of linguistics to describe a set of words grouped by meaning in a certain way.
  • Semantic Field is defined as the set of words covering a certain area in one language. It is often illustrated by the field of color terminology, e.g. green, blue and grey (Aitchison, 1992:82).
semantic field2
Semantic Field

The words in a semantic field share a common semantic property.

But, words in a semantic field are not synonymous, but are all used to talk about the same general.

A kurdish example for Semantic Field may be:

(طريان – فيغان – شيوةن – شةثوَر)

(طوَر – كفن – كيَل - تةنط – تاريك)

semantic field3
Semantic Field
  • The kinds of semantic fields vary from culture to culture.
  • Lobner, S. (2002) Understanding Semantics. London: Hodder Education
  • Saeed, J. I. (2002) Semantics. 3rd ed. England: Pearson Education Ltd.

Jean Aitchison

Salam Nawkhosh

that s all

That’s All

Thank You All