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1.1: Brief semantic considerations

  • Page ID
    84566
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    Semantics is a branch of linguistics concerned with the meaning of words, phrases, or texts. It seems worthwhile to do a quick ”semantic analysis” of the course title, and explain the underlying motivations of choosing such a title.

    The meaning of the term ”energy” has been explained in detail in the preceding section – so now we need to focus our attention on the world ”Alternatives”. Let’s take a highly respected source for word definitions, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and look up ”Alternative” (we can do that conveniently using the Internet). We find that the word may play the role of either an adjective, or a noun:

    Adjective:

    1: offering or expressing a choice (e.g., ”several alternative plans”);

    2: different from the usual or conventional: such as

    2A: existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system (e.g., ”an alternative newspaper”, ”alternative lifestyles”;

    2B: of, relating to, or being rock music that is regarded as an alternative to conventional rock and is typically influenced by punk rock, hard rock, hip- hop, or folk music;

    2C: of or relating to alternative medicine (e.g., ”alternative therapies”).

    Noun:

    1:

    1a: a proposition or situation offering a choice between two or more things only one of which may be chosen;

    1b: an opportunity for deciding between two or more courses or propositions.

    2:

    2a: one of two or more things, courses, or propositions to be chosen;

    2b: something which can be chosen instead (e.g., ”the only alternative to inter- vention”).

    3: alternative rock music.

    Clearly, the word ”Alternatives” used in our title is not an adjective, because (i) it’s plural, and there is no plural form of adjectives, and (ii) adjectives are normally positioned before the nouns. If ”alternative” were intended to be used as an adjective, the title would be Alternative Energies, not Energy Alternatives. In the latter, “Alternatives” is obviously a plural noun. And it’s definitely not Item 1a, 1b, or 3 from the noun group quoted above. So, the meaning is either that defined by Item 2a, or that defined by Item 2b. Which one is the meaning preferred by the author of this text, and why? In order to answer this question, let’s for a moment talk about the other word in the title, i.e., the “Energy”.


    1.1: Brief semantic considerations is shared under a CC BY 1.3 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Tom Giebultowicz.

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