The Utility of Meaning: What Words Mean and Why by N. J. Enfield

The Utility of Meaning: What Words Mean and Why

byN. J. Enfield

Hardcover | January 18, 2015

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This book argues that the complex, anthropocentric, and often culture-specific meanings of words have been shaped directly by their history of 'utility' for communication in social life. N. J. Enfield draws on semantic and pragmatic case studies from his extensive fieldwork in Laos toinvestigate a range of semantic fields including emotion terms, culinary terms, landscape terminology, and honorific pronouns, among many others. These studies form the building blocks of a conceptual framework for understanding meaning in language. The book argues that the goals and relevancies ofhuman communication are what bridge the gap between the private representation of language in the mind and its public processes of usage, acquisition, and conventionalization in society. Professor Enfield argues that in order to understand this process, we first need to understand the ways in whichlinguistic meaning is layered, multiple, anthropocentric, cultural, distributed, and above all, useful.This wide-ranging account brings together several key strands of research across disciplines including semantics, pragmatics, cognitive linguistics, and sociology of language, and provides a rich account of what linguistic meaning is like and why.

About The Author

N. J. Enfield is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney, and a senior staff scientist at the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen. He has carried out extensive field work in mainland Southeast Asia, especially Laos, with a focus on language, culture, cognition, and social interaction. His books include Ethnosyntax (OUP 2002), ...
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Details & Specs

Title:The Utility of Meaning: What Words Mean and WhyFormat:HardcoverDimensions:216 pagesPublished:January 18, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198709838

ISBN - 13:9780198709831

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Conventions for linguistic examplesList of figures and tablesPreface1. Introduction2. Meanings are layered3. Meanings are multiple4. Meanings are anthropocentric5. Meanings are cultural6. Meanings are distributed7. Conclusion: Meanings are usefulReferencesIndex