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____________________________Reviews_________________________189 Linguistic Semantics. 1992. William Frawley. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum. xvii + 533 pp. $39.95 U.S. paper; $89.95 U.S. cloth. Frawley's book is an attempt to create a new discipline to deal with die meaning of words as humans use them. He succeeds admirably in this attempt, providing not only a scholarly work but also one that is quite readable to anyone interested in what we can mean when we use words. Despite the presence of the word semantics in the title, Frawley specifically leaves formal semantics to others (while drawing from the results of this field as necessary ) and focuses on the semantics drawn from linguistic studies. This increases the book's readability, an important concern, given the breadth of coverage of semantic issues. This is a book that can reach the layperson as well as the expert. The book is very much like a handbook and so the organization and the division of its content are very important The table of contents only identifies the first level of division in the chapters, but one could easily and usefully reconstruct a full oudine by following the subsections and sub-subsections, recognizing thereby how the issues are dealt with in increasing detail: the overall structure of the book provides a clear demarcation for each topic. The handbook analogy also extends to how the book might be used in practice—as a reference source diat permits quick look up of the myriad aspects of meaning diat Frawley explores. Another important organizational principle is that each chapter after the first two introductory ones has an introduction, a descriptive section, and a theoretical section. Each of chapters 3 to 10 begins with a presentation of pertinent empirical data. In these parts of the chapters, die author draws mainly on linguistic field data, using material from 203 languages with a language index identifying the examples from each language except English. In the theoretical sections of each chapter, Frawley usually attempts to synthesize and unify the data, manipulating both the "received wisdom" and his own perspective, which usually results in engaging conclusions. I will not judge the thoroughness of Frawley's explications. He has drawn from 458 references, with perhaps half of these from booklength studies . The coverage has the appearance of completeness and I am unable to think of anything that he has omitted in areas with which I am familiar. Those who are sufficiendy expert in some particular area of semantics may be able to argue that Frawley's treatment is insufficient. Indeed, each topic could be fruitfully elaborated using details available in Frawley's own citations, but this book is not the place for such extensions. We would want to know where diere is the possibility of disagreement, but the only way to do this would be to have an analytic repository of conventional wisdom. (For a proposal to create such a repository, see Olney's SOLAR system, a semantically-oriented lexical archive of formal descriptions of word meanings.) After a pleasurable first reading of the book, it can then be used as a reference source and as a handbook, with each section standing on its own. A student or active user (see below) can jump in at any point and get a clear 190Reviews summary of (1) data describing a semantic component of language, (2) the elements necessary to describe that component, (3) windows to the scholarly literature, and (4) major issues that the literature has not yet resolved. Overview of the contents Chapter One: Defining the ambit of linguistic semantics: the meanings that are encoded in language; the meaning that a word brings to its use. Identification of linguistic semantics as an empirical discipline for the study of meaning that is reflected in the syntactic structure of language. Chapter Two: Selecting the appropriate approach to meaning (from among reference, logical form, context and use, culture, and conceptual structure). Settling on the last. Chapters Three to Ten (the data and theory chapters): entities, events (thematic roles, space, aspect, tense and time, modality and negation), and modification (the parenthetical items consist of topics that address the attributes of events). Frawley brings together the data in each of these...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 189-197
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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