Semantics vs Pragmatics | Difference between semantics and pragmatics.

Semantics vs Pragmatics, Difference between semantics and pragmatics, Semantics and pragmatics, Difference between pragmatics and semantics, semantics definition, pragmatics definition, semantics examples, pragmatics examples, Try.Fulfil


Semantics and pragmatics are the two basic levels of linguistics. Both are related to the study of meaning in a language. Both have some similarities and also dissimilarities. Let’s know broadly about semantics vs pragmatics.

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Difference between semantics and pragmatics.

Semantics definition:

 The basic level of linguistics which deals with the study of meaning is called semantics. Semantics defines how meaning is constructed by language. Moreover, semantics includes how meaning is interpreted, illustrated, clarified, obscured, contradicted and paraphrased. It’s used in language acquisition and language change. Furthermore, semantics is highly theoretical in manner. Semantics doesn’t include context in its study of meaning in a language. For example, semantics investigates the meaning of words, phrases, sentences etc. but not the use of it in real life situations.


Semantics Examples:

 There are several fields in semantics which studies meaning in different ways. Examples of semantics can be added by naming several lexical relations for example synonym, antonym, hyponym, homonym, homophone, ambiguity, polysemy, prototype, acronym, abbreviation, metonym, collocation.


Pragmatics definition:

A branch of linguistics which studies language use in context is known as pragmatics. It also deals with meaning which is not transparent in normal explanation of words or sentences. It speaks beyond the literal meaning of utterances. Pragmatics includes the meaning of language in interaction and how we communicate and understand us. In short, pragmatics studies how we use language in real life situations, for example, how we listen and make utterances in context and maintain social relationships.


Pragmatics Examples:

 There are different issues in pragmatics, to give example, they are speech act theory, felicity conditions, conversational implicature, cooperative principles, conversational maxims, relevance, politeness and deixis.


Difference between semantics and pragmatics:

The differences between semantics and pragmatics can be identified according to different phenomena, e.g. definition, context, focus, scope, examples, significance of words etc.


In terms of definition, semantics is the theoretical understanding of meaning. It studies the meanings of linguistics expressions. On the contrary, pragmatics is the study of meaning in contextual situations. It is related to the practical use of language. This is the sole difference between semantics and pragmatics.


Secondly, semantics doesn’t consider context in investigating meaning wherein pragmatics highly judges context in its study.


Furthermore, semantics focuses on the meaning of words, phrases, clauses and sentences. On the other hand, pragmatics focuses on language use.


In terms of scope, semantics is a narrow field as it deals with only meanings of the utterances. But pragmatics is broader when is compared to semantics as it holds aspects beyond texts.


Next to this, semantics discusses vocabulary, grammar and conceptual meaning. Rather, pragmatics deals with the contextual factors of language.


Example of semantics can be shown through this sentence,

 “My father has a better smell than my father.”

This sentence provides a general meaning that I like my mother more than my father. Then the meaning is understandable and acceptable for all sorts of readers.

Example of pragmatics is manifested by this following sentence,

“Will you crack open a window, please?"

If we take this literally, a friend asks to crack the window means he is telling to damage it. But, in context or in pragmatics, we can sense that he is asking to open the window a little.


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Written by: Saiful Munna,

Honours in English, BD.

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