What is semantic analysis

Like any linguistic analysis, the semantic analysis of a linguistic unit also amounts to testing its syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations. The necessary substitute and postponement tests are carried out on the next higher grammatical level. Constructions then result that have to be assessed in terms of metalinguistics.

On the lower linguistic levels - more precisely: on the phonological and the flexion-morphological level - the substitute sample usually gives clear results of the following kind:

  1. is grammatical, but means something else
  2. is grammatical and means the same thing
  3. is ungrammatic.

Such findings suggest the existence of one of the three elementary paradigmatic relations - opposition, free variation, complementary distribution.

In semantics - i.e. on linguistic levels, where meaningful units are combined - the results are not so clear. For example, we analyze the meaning of a verb by inserting lexically or grammatically different nominal syntagms into the position of its actants. If a substitution is not possible, we conclude that the nominal syntagma is incompatible with the meaning of the verb - more precisely: a selection restriction - and can thus grasp the latter more precisely. In this sense, we use its singular counterpart for the plural noun in B1.a.

B1.a.Erna picked peas.
b.Erna picked a pea.