1. Uninteresting - deficient ininterest or excitement.
2. ... Stupid - deficient in intellect.
3. Not bright- deficient in light or colour.
4. Not loud - deficient in sound.
5. Not sharp - deficient in sharpness.
6. Not active - deficient in activity.
7. Seeing badly - deficient in eyesight.
8. Hearing badly - deficient in hearing.
The transformed scheme of the semantic structure of "dull" clearly shows that the centre holding together the complex semantic structure of this word is not one of the meanings but a certain component that can be easily singled out within each separate meaning.
On the second level of analysis of the semantic structure of a word: each separate meaning is a subject to structural analysis in which it may be represented as sets of semantic components.
The scheme of the semantic structure of "dull" shows that the semantic structure of a word is not a mere system of meanings, for each separate meaning is subject to further subdivision and possesses an inner structure of its own.
Therefore, the semantic structure of a word should be investigated at both these levels: 1) of different meanings, 2) of semantic components within each separate meaning. For a monosemantic word (i. e. a word with one meaning) the first level is naturally excluded.
TYPES OF SEMANTIC COMPONENTS
The leading semantic component in the semantic structure of a word is usually termed denotative component (also, the term referential component may be used). The denotative component expresses the conceptual content of a word.
The following list presents denotative components of some English adjectives and verbs:
lonely, adj. - alone, without company …
notorious, adj. - widely known
celebrated, adj. - widely known
to glare, v. - to look
to glance, v. - to look
to shiver, v. - to tremble
to shudder, v. - to tremble
It is quite obvious that the definitions given in the right column only partially and incompletely describe the meanings of their corresponding words. They do not give a more or less full picture of the meaning of a word. To do it, it is necessary to include in the scheme of analysis additional semantic components which are termed connotations or connotative components.
The above examples show how by singling out denotative and connotative components one can get a sufficiently clear picture of what the word really means. The schemes presenting the semantic structures of "glare", "shiver", "shudder" also show that a meaning can have two or more connotative components.
The given examples do not exhaust all the types of connotations but present only a few: emotive, evaluative connotations, and also connotations of duration and of cause.
MEANING AND CONTEXT
It's important that there is sometimes a chance of misunderstanding when a polysemantic word is used in a certain meaning but accepted by a listener or reader in another.
It is common knowledge that context prevents from any misunderstanding of meanings. For instance, the adjective "dull", if used out of context, would mean different things to different people or nothing at all. It is only in combination with other words that it reveals its actual meaning: "a dull pupil", "a dull play", "dull weather", etc. Sometimes, however, such a minimum context fails to reveal the meaning of the word, and it may be correctly interpreted only through a second-degree context as in the following example: "The man was large, but his wife was even fatter". The word "fatter" here serves as a kind of indicator pointing that "large" describes a stout man and not a big one.
Current research in semantics is largely based on the assumption that one of the more promising methods of investigating the semantic structure of a word is by studying the word's linear relationships with other words in typical contexts, i. e. its combinability or collocability.
Scholars have established that the semantics of words which regularly appear in common contexts are correlated and, therefore, one of the words within such a pair can be studied through the other.
They are so intimately correlated that each of them casts, as it were, a kind of permanent reflection on the meaning of its neighbour. If the verb "to compose" is frequently used with the object "music", so it is natural to expect that certain musical associations linger in the meaning of the verb "to composed".
Note, also, how closely the negative evaluative connotation of the adjective "notorious" is linked with the negative connotation of the nouns with which it is regularly associated: "a notorious criminal", "thief", "gangster", "gambler", "gossip", "liar", "miser", etc.
All this leads us to the conclusion that context is a good and reliable key to the meaning of the word.
It's a common error to see a different meaning in every new set of combinations. For instance: "an angry man", "an angry letter". Is the adjective "angry" used in the same meaning in both these contexts or in two different meanings? Some people will say "two" and argue that, on the one hand, the combinability is different ("man" --name of person; "letter" - name of object) and, on the other hand, a letter cannot experience anger. True, it cannot; but it can very well convey the anger of the person who wrote it. As to the combinability, the main point is that a word can realize the same meaning in different sets of combinability. For instance, in the pairs "merry children", "merry laughter", "merry faces", "merry songs" the adjective "merry" conveys the same concept of high spirits.
The task of distinguishing between the different meanings of a word and the different variations of combinability is actually a question of singling out the different denotations within the semantic structure of the word.
1) a sad woman,
2) a sad voice,
3) a sad story,
4) a sad scoundrel (= an incorrigible scoundrel)
5) a sad night (= a dark, black night, arch. poet.)
Obviously the first three contexts have the common denotation of sorrow whereas in the fourth and fifth contexts the denotations are different. So, in these five coniexts we can identify three meanings of "sad".
1. Г.Б.Антрушина, О.В.Афанасьева. Лексикология английского языка. - М. Изд. Дрофа. 1999
2. F.R.Palmer. Semantics. A new outline. - M. V.Sh. 1982