Author Topic: semantics and syntax of color terms  (Read 4942 times)

Offline zaba

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semantics and syntax of color terms
« on: November 06, 2014, 11:24:54 PM »
How would you characterise the semantic or syntactic differences with the word 'black' in the English sentences below?

1. I want the black shirts (... for Xmass).
2. I want the shirts in black (... not blue).
3. I want the black of the shirts (... to match the belt).

In what sense does the syntax influence the semantics of color?

Offline Daniel

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Re: semantics and syntax of color terms
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2014, 01:17:19 AM »
The semantics doesn't seem different. The pragmatics varies.

And the third sentence isn't the same as the others. That means "the shade of black" (which is sort of odd, though I guess it works maybe meaning "the visual properties of the black").

"I want the (shade of) blue of the sky to match my hat('s color)."


The other two just differ in focus, I guess. It seems to be assigning them black, choosing from a menu of sorts, at the store. It almost suggests that they will be made for them in that color, but of course in modern stores they have them hidden in the back. In that case, black is a particular style/option, not a description.
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Offline zaba

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Re: semantics and syntax of color terms
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2014, 04:07:24 AM »
Quote
The semantics doesn't seem different. The pragmatics varies.

What are some simple strategies to illustrate the pragmatic differences?

Offline Daniel

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Re: semantics and syntax of color terms
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2014, 08:14:55 AM »
Discourse focus I think. I'm not using that it a particularly technical way though. Basically like active vs passive, however you want to analyze that.

You could use the maxim of quantity (or basically consider markedness) to get a different reading for 2, simply because it is a circumlocution of 1. But as I said these have slightly different meanings (structurally) so they aren't exactly equivalent though the color word "means" the same thing.
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Offline freknu

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Re: semantics and syntax of color terms
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2014, 09:00:23 AM »
I'd say:

  • attributive — desire(I want) attribute(black) object(shirt)
  • resultative — desire(I want) object(shirt) result(to be black)
  • possessive — desire(I want) relative(shirt's) object(black)

In (1) and (2) the object is a shirt, while in (3) it is a colour. The difference between (1) and (2) is that the former focuses on a stative attribute, while the latter on an eventive result.