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  • El significado: Una introdución a la semántica by Fernando García Murga
  • Judith Meinschaefer
El significado: Una introducción a la semántica. By Fernando García Murga. (LINCOM course books in linguistics.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2002. Pp. ix, 324. ISBN 3895863009. $57.60 (Hb).

The semantics of a natural language can be investigated from three different points of view, as García Murga points out at the beginning of his book: from a philosophical perspective, from the point of view of formal semantics, and from a linguistic viewpoint. This book aims at introducing the reader to each of the three viewpoints, which are presented in three main sections of the book and complemented by an introductory chapter and a short conclusion.

Part 1, ‘Introducción general a la semántica’ (3–50), begins with a discussion of semantic relations between words (synonymy, etc.) and between sentences (entailment, etc.). Here GM establishes semantic theory as a branch of semiotics, which he uses as background for discussing terms like ‘sentence’, ‘proposition’ and ‘utterance’, ‘pragmatics’ or ‘literal meaning’.

Part 2, ‘Reflexiones sobre el significado’ (51–124), aims at introducing semantic theory from a philosophical point of view. It starts with a detailed discussion of referential theories of meaning, followed by a section dealing with truth-conditional semantics and a final section on holistic versus decompositional approaches to conceptual semantics. [End Page 524]

In Part 3, ‘Semántica formal’ (125–203), GM introduces the reader to basic notions of set theory, of propositional logic, and of predicate logic. Additional sections consider the possible formalization of natural languages, type theory, the theory of generalized quantifiers, and models concerned with the dynamics of discourse, in particular discourse representation theory.

Part 4, ‘Semántica lingüstica’ (205–87), is strongly influenced by the basic tenets of generative approaches to linguistic knowledge. GM starts with a short introduction to generative grammar, discussing the role of the semantic component in various versions of the theory, including the minimalist program. He then considers notions like argument structure, thematic structure, aspectual structure, and nominal reference properties from the viewpoint of the structure of the lexicon. Subsequent sections deal with the relation between syntactic and semantic structure, presenting the basic concepts of binding theory and introducing the level of logical form. Finally, some notions concerning information structure and deixis are established.

Part 5, ‘Consideraciones finales’ (289–93), briefly recapitulates some of the main themes of the book.

Each of Parts 1–4 is complemented by a list of fundamental concepts, further reading recommendations, and exercises. The book contains an appendix with solutions to the exercises (295–306) and a reference section (309–24), but does not have an index.

GM provides a comprehensive introduction to a variety of questions and theoretical viewpoints concerning the semantics of natural language, mainly drawing on examples taken from Spanish. The book is written in a clear style, giving short and precise introductions to many of the main concepts of semantic theory.

The main focus of the book, however, is not on providing the student with a coherent set of analytic and representational tools for learning to do semantic analysis, but rather on presenting a wide background on current concepts and approaches. A number of the further reading recommendations at the end of each part direct the student to introductory or overview monographs or edited volumes rather than to research articles that might be most relevant to specific questions dealt with in the text.

Judith Meinschaefer
University of Konstanz


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pp. 524-525
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