Important aspects of meaning

Each time we look for a suitable word to put in a sentence, we should at first consider certain aspects of its meaning. If we want to convey a message, we have to be thorough. Therefore, as far as a number of meanings of one word is concerned, the emphasis should be put on a matter of the context. We can distinguish three aspects of meaning: denotation, connotation and appropriateness.

Accordingly, denotation is a kind of definition which we find in a dictionary, it explains what a word refers to in the real world.

Another aspect of meaning - connotation - is not as obvious as denotation; it relates to a feeling that a particular item involves, whether this is a negative or positive feeling. This piece of information may or may not be noted in a dictionary. In other words, connotation is defined as a ‘shade of meaning’. What is more, connotation also depends on a cultural predisposition; if taking the word ‘dog’ into consideration, we may notice that in British culture this word has a positive association whereas in Arabic the word dog involves negative feelings. Moving on to a practical side of connotation, which adjectives come to your mind when you think of an intelligent person? We can think of ‘clever’, ‘smart’, ‘intelligent’, ‘bright’, ‘brainy’. Your attention should be drawn by the fact that each of these items has a different connotation. Thus ‘brainy’ is an informal item and has a rather negative association, ‘bright’ involves the connotation of ‘lively and young’, ‘clever’ is frequently used in sentences with negative connotations while ‘smart’, having a slight connotation of oddity, is a fairly popular word in American English. Therefore we should consider connotation as a prominent factor when choosing a word, if we want to be precise.

The third aspect of meaning called appropriateness is a rational usage of a particular item according to the context. In relation to appropriateness of a certain word, it is useful to be aware whether an item is well-known or fairly rare. Even though we already know that a particular item is in common usage, it is significant to consider one more aspect: if it suits formal rather than informal speech. We should know words or phrases which in a polite discussion turn out to be ‘taboo’ or are supposed to be used merely in writing rather than in speech, and, at last but not least, when a certain vocabulary item is involved in a particular dialect.

Glossary:

  • Suitable - dogodny
  • To be thorough – być dokładnym
  • To distinguish – rozróżnić
  • Obvious – oczywiste
  • Association – skojarzenie
  • To draw (someone’s) attention – przyciągać (czyjąś) uwagę
  • Frequently – często
  • To be precise – być szczegółowym
  • Merely – wyłącznie, tylko

 

Author: Katarzyna Konar