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Words and Meaning

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Abstract

Chapter 3 approaches meaning from the level of the word. This, in many ways is the most ‘comfortable’ level of meaning for non-specialists, since we tend to talk casually about meaning as though it were all carried by words. I have already suggested (section 1.5) that words do not ‘have’ meaning in quite the way that is implied by the existence of printed dictionaries. These publications are merely a snapshot, as it were, of the current state of usage of words. Nevertheless, we can treat words and parts of words as though they ‘have meaning’ for the purposes of documenting and analysing the relationships between words and their contribution to textual meaning. It is simply important to keep in mind the fact that we are only documenting a consensus at a particular time and in a specific speech community and even then individual speakers of that time and place might disagree with some of our conclusions. To begin with, we will consider whether there are words which, even in this modified sense, do not seem to carry meaning.

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© Lesley Jeffries 1998

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