Lexical semantics

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Lexical semantics is a subfield of linguistics. It is the study of how and what the words of a language denote (Pustejovsky, 1995). Words may either be taken to denote things in the world, or concepts, depending on the particular approach to lexical semantics.

Lexical units are the words so lexical semantics involves the meaning of each individual word. Lexical semantics is the one area of linguistics to which we can continually add throughout our lives, as we are always learning new words and their meanings whereas we can only learn the rules of our native language during the critical period when we are young.

It covers theories of the classification and decomposition of word meaning, the differences and similarities in lexical semantic structure between different languages, and the relationship of word meaning to sentence meaning and syntax.

A question asked is if meaning is established by looking at the neighbourhood in the semantic net a word is part of and by looking at the other words it occurs with in natural sentences or if the meaning is already locally contained in a word. Another question is how words map to concepts. As tools, lexical relations like synonymy, antonymy (opposites), hyponymy and hypernymy are used in this field.