Anna Wierzbicka, Semantic Decomposition, and the Meaning-Text Approach

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Abstract


The paper aims to demonstrate that the main contribution of Anna Wierzbicka to linguistics is the idea of semantic decomposition - that is, representing meaning in terms of structurally organized configurations of simpler meanings - and a huge amount of specific decompositions of lexical meanings from many languages. One of possible developments of this idea of Wierzbicka’s is the Meaning-Text linguistic approach, and in particular - the Meaning-Text model of natural language. To illustrate the importance and fruitfulness of semantic decomposition, two Meaning-Text mini-models are presented for English and Russian. Two semantically equivalent sentences of these languages are considered: (1) a. Eng. A honeymooner was fatally attacked by a shark. ~ b. Rus. Molodožën pogib v rezul´tate napadenija akuly vo vremja medovogo mesjaca lit. ‘Young.husband died as result of.attack of.shark during honey month’ The formal representations of these sentences at four levels-Meaning-Text style-are shown: semantic, deep-syntactic, surface-syntactic, and deep-morphological. Examples of formal rules relating the representations of two adjacent levels are presented.

About the authors

Igor A Mel’čuk

Observatoire de linguistique Sens-Texte Université de Montréal

Email: igor.melcuk@umontreal.ca
Case postale 6128 Centre-ville, Montréal H3C3J7, Canada
Professor Emeritus at the University of Montreal, Canada, the author of 47 books and 279 published scientific papers. His research interests include general linguistics (with special attention to its conceptual apparatus and terminology), semantics (with special attention to lexicology and lexicography), syntax (with special attention to dependency structures), and morphology; his work is based mostly on Russian and French, but concerns also English and several other languages (Hungarian, Lezghian, Alutor, Dyirbal, Bafia, Kirundi, Korean). He is the proponent of the MeaningText approach to natural language and one of the pioneers of Machine Translation-since 1954.

References

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