Conceptual semantics is a framework for semantic analysis developed mainly by Ray Jackendoff. Its aim is to provide a characterization of the conceptual elements by which a person understands words and sentences, and thus to provide an explanatory semantic representation (title of a Jackendoff 1976 paper). Explanatory in this sense refers to the ability of a given linguistic theory to describe how a component of language is acquired by a child (as proposed by Noam Chomsky; see Levels of adequacy).
Recently, conceptual semantics in particular, and lexical semantics in general, have taken on increasing importance in linguistics and psycholinguistics. Many contemporary theories of syntax (how sentences are constructed from individual words) rely on elements that are idiosyncratic to words themselves. As a result, a sound theory accounting for the properties of the meanings of words is required.
- Jackendoff, Ray (1976). "Toward an explanatory semantic representation". Linguistic Inquiry 7 (1): 89–150.
- Jackendoff, Ray (1976). Semantics and Cognition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 283. ISBN 0-262-10027-4.
- Jackendoff, Ray (1990). Semantic Structures. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 322. ISBN 0-262-10043-6.
- Jackendoff, Ray (1991). "Parts and boundaries". In Levin, Beth & Pinker, Steven. Lexical & conceptual semantics. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 244. ISBN 1-55786-354-7.
- Jackendoff, Ray (2002). Foundations of Language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 477. ISBN 0-19-827012-7.
- Jackendoff, Ray (2007). Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 403. ISBN 978-0-262-10119-6.
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