Semantics is the branch of the study of language which deals with the meanings of words. In public discussions, on the radio and elsewhere, it is a common practice for one of the disputants to dismiss his opponent’s argument by saying that it is merely a matter of semantics, while he goes on to reiterate his own arguments. This approach is open to two objections. The first is the use of the word ‘merely’. When disputants are arguing with words — and no other method of argument is in general use — the meanings that they attach to the words they use are of fundamental importance, not something to be dismissed. The second objection is that the comment should be followed, as it rarely is, by an examination of what semantic problems are involved and how they affect the argument.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Similar Meaning Original Meaning Past Participle Abstract Noun
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