There’s glory for you!’ ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘ ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’
- Lewis Carroll (1872), Through the Looking Glass
Semantics is the systematic study of meaning in human language. It is concerned with the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences. Subfields of semantics are lexical semantics, which deals with the meaning of words and meaning relationships within the lexicon, and sentence semantics, which studies the meaning of syntactic units larger than words (i.e. phrases, clauses, and sentences) and the meaning relationships between them. This kind of semantic analysis is called structural semantics, as meaning is defined and analysed from a predominantly language-internal perspective. In contrast, cognitive semantics explains meaning in terms of human cognition, linking meaning to the way the world is perceived and grouped into conceptual categories.