The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

I. Semantics is a social science
The word "semantics" was launched by the Frenchman Michel Breal in an article published in 1883 and firmly established by his book Essai de Semantique (Science des significations) which appeared in 1897. The word itself derives from the Greek semantikos> "significant," from semainein, "to signify," "to mean," etc.;1 and the following definition of "semantics," which can be paraphrased in various ways, makes room for the essential points that this Primer will emphasize.
The subject matter of semantics is here limited to the study of techniques by which to accomplish purposes throughjJie use of words.
Since semantics is related to human behavior, it is a social science in its own right, dependent upon and conforming with whatever exact knowledge has bearing on its own specific subject matter. Every social science worthy of the name has its roots in the more exact sciences. Systematic studies in human behaviorin race relations, in politics, in economics, etc.draw heavily upon the biological sciences, notably psychology; and the biological sciences draw heavily upon the physical sciences. The study of
%See Allen Walker Read, "An Account of the Word 'Semantics"* Word, IV, No. 2, August, 1948.