Meaning of Meaning

What is Meaning:

As meaning we call the concept, idea or content that we attribute to a thing.

According to the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, meaning is the semantic content that we associate with a linguistic sign, that is, the mental representation that the sign evokes in us.

Thus, the meaning depends on what each person assigns to the sign. However, for a communicative process to be carried out successfully, it is necessary that this meaning be shared by the people who participate in the process.

On the other hand, in a more general sense, meanings can be attributed to different things, apart from linguistic signs.

Thus, for example, gray clouds on the horizon often mean that a rain is approaching.

Perceptions or manifestations of the unconscious, such as dreams, are often interpreted as a series of clues that reveal events to come or hidden feelings.

In the same way, meanings are attributed to colors according to the type of emotions, sensations, moods or concepts or ideas that they evoke.

The same can be verified in the choice of names or anthroponyms. A meaning is associated with all names. The name Fabián, for example, means "the one who harvests beans."

Significant and significant

According to Ferdinand de Saussure, the linguistic sign is an entity consisting of the signifier and the signified. The signifier is the material or sensible component of the linguistic sign: it is the written word or the phoneme or the set of phonemes that are associated with a meaning. While the meaning is the semantic content of the signifier, that is, the mental representation or the concept that is associated with a linguistic sign.

Denotative and connotative meaning

As denotative meaning, the concept or idea that a sign contains in an objective, basic and universal way is called. Hence, it is opposed to the connotative meaning, which refers to the set of concepts or ideas that a sign can evoke or awaken, in addition to that which is its own. Thus, the word blue, which denotatively and specifically refers to a color, when used in a poetic text can also have other connotations and refer to realities such as the sky or the sea, or to concepts such as serenity or calm.

Literal and figurative meaning

The literal meaning is called that concept or idea that is objectively associated with a linguistic sign. The figurative sense, on the other hand, is one that is attributed to a linguistic sign when the ideas or concepts it denotes are different from those it literally has. For example, in the phrase: "My mother has swept the living room of the house", the verb sweep is used in its literal sense. Now, if we say: "We have swept the field with the opposing team", we are using the verb sweep in a figurative sense to mean that we have defeated our opponent in such an overwhelming way.

Contextual meaning

As contextual meaning, it is called that which is attributed to a word or phrase depending on the linguistic environment within which it is used. For example, if a person who has been hit with a pillow by a friend says “this is war”, by context we know that it is simply a playful and friendly fight with pillows. Now, if it is the head of state of a nation who says it to the media, we know that the seriousness of the matter is much higher, since it is the beginning of hostilities between two countries.

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