last changed in 2002
The (study of the) lexical meanings of words - in other words, the study of the senses of lexemes. One of the big debates in semantics is about `lexical decomposition': should the lexical meaning of a word be `decomposed' into parts, or is it a single unanalysable atom?
The classic example is the meaning of KILL: does KILL mean `cause to become not alive', or does it mean just `kill'? WG combines both these views. On the one hand, the sense of KILL is simply `kill', but on the other hand the analysis includes the semantic structure around `kill': `kill' isa effect, so it has an er, an ee and a result; and the result is a state in which the ee is dead, which in turn is related (by `not') to `alive'. Here is a WG analysis:
One of the most controversial (though widely accepted) claims of WG is that there is no boundary between lexical semantics and general knowledge (`encyclopedic meaning', or conceptual structure). This is why the lexical meaning of a word must include not only its sense, but also the latter's cognitive context, the network around it. There is no natural boundary round the relevant network - in principle the analysis could continue until the whole of knowledge is included in the meaning of each word! (For an example, see the discussion of Bicycle and Cycle in Hudson and Holmes 1998.)
This is an article from the Encyclopedia of Word Grammar and English grammar. If you refer to it, please give the url as "http://tinyurl.com/wg-encyc".