Friday, 21 January 2011

Semantic Analysis: Conceptual meaning and Connotative meaning


Semantics is a study of the meaning of lexical items and other parts of language.  There are seven types of meaning in Semantics; conceptual, connotative, stylistic, affective, reflected, collocative and thematic meaning. This study focuses on only two of the types of meaning: conceptual meaning and connotative meaning.

The lexical items chosen for the study are Boulevard, Street, Road, Lane, Avenue, Route and Drive. These words seem to be describing similar things, but serve very specific criteria. These nouns have always confused some English language learners. ESL learners often resort to memorizing names of streets/boulevard etc. as opposed to trying to understand what makes the names of these pathways. So, what are the criteria that make a boulevard a Boulevard, a street a Street, and so on?


Definitions of the selected words for analysis in this study were obtained from, and


Conceptual meaning means logical, cognitive, or denotative content.  It is based on two structural principles, which are contrastiveness and constituent structures. It is usually derived from definitions we find in dictionaries and the appearance of these lexical items. We give these lexical items features (constituent structures) and eliminate other features which are not present (contrastiveness structures).

Boulevard + wide, multi-lane + paved
+ public use
+ division into peripheral roads
+ major thoroughfare for regional traffic
+ divided by a median down the centre
+ parking lanes on each side
+ roadways along each side for bicycle and pedestrian usage
+ landscaping and scenery
+ urban and suburban
- private owned
- narrow lanes
Street + paved + public use
+ thoroughfare with adjoining buildings
+ usually urban context, but also found in villages and towns
+ for the public to interact, assemble and move about
+ some are multi-lane
+ roadways along each side for bicycle and pedestrian usage
- private owned
- connecting two towns
Road + thoroughfare connecting two places/towns + could be either private or public owned
+ usually paved
+ mainly for the use of motor vehicles
+ includes bridges, tunnels, supporting structures, junctions, crossings, interchanges and toll roads
- roadways along each side for bicycle and pedestrian usage
- landscaping and scenery
- parking lanes on each side
Lane + narrow, usually fits only one motor vehicle + usually in countryside/rural area
+ sometimes paved
- shoulder
- median
Avenue + broad pathway + paved
+ bordered by trees
+ for medium to high capacity road
+ off main roads
- median
- roadways along each side for bicycle and pedestrian usage
Route + wide, multi-lane + paved
+ public use
+ major thoroughfare
- private owned
- narrow lanes
Drive + private owned + way of access to buildings/structures
- roadways along each side for bicycle and pedestrian usage
- median
- shoulder


Connotative meaning refers to what is communicated by virtue of what language refers to.  In other words, it is the meaning above the conceptual meaning and it may vary according to culture, background or society.  Thus, connotative meaning can be subjective or unstable. It depends very much on how an individual or society perceives a word. It is the association that we make in our mind of what these lexical items represent.

Boulevard urban, modern, hip, short, businesses
Street urban, well-kept, wide, residential
Road long, old, main traffic
Lane narrow, old, unpaved
Avenue narrow, short, residential, mostly non-through
Route long and stretches far, heavy traffic
Drive short, narrow, non-through


Definitions of Boulevard, Street, Road, Lane, Avenue, Route and Drive from:

Hafriza, 1997. Semantics: Words without meaning is meaningless. UKM


No comments:

Post a Comment