Semantics- the meaning behind it all


Semantics is the content portion of language, referring to the meaning of words.  Every utterance has some type of meaning to it, otherwise it wouldn’t be said in the first place. It is also possible for the utterance to code for more than one meaning. For example, you might say something like “I drove my new car” which includes attribution (referencing “new”) and action (“drove”).  As a child progresses from Phases 1 to 8 of language development, their utterances become more complex and are eventually capable of coding for more than one Content Category, just as adult speech can.

Here are some of the Content Categories as defined by Bloom and Lahey:

1)    Existence– Utterances in this category refer to objects or people that exist in the environment; they serve to either point out the existence of the object/person or to identify the object/person

Ex: “doggie” or “That’s a doggie” further on in development

2)    Recurrence– make reference to the reappearance of an object, or another instance of an object or event (this can be with or without the first instance still present)

Ex: “more cookie”

3)    Nonexistance-Disappearance– make reference to the disappearance of an object or the nonexistence of an object or action

Ex: “no wheels” as pointing to a car without wheels, or “no open” as trying to open a box

4)    Rejection– when a child opposes an action or refuses an object using a form of negation

Ex: “no bath” or “don’t touch me”

5)    Denial– if the child negates the identity, state, or event expressed in a prior utterance (their own utterance or someone else’s)

Ex: mother says, “It’s time for bed” and the child responds, “no bed”

6)    Attribution– make reference to properties of objects with respect to a) the state of the object, like “broken,” b) specification of an object that distinguishes it from others, like “red”

7)    Possession– indicate that a particular object is associated with a given person

Ex: “my chair” or “mommy chair”

8)    Locative Action– refer to movement where the goal of the movement is a change in location of the object/person

Ex: “put blocks on table”

9)    Action– refer to the movement relationships among people and objects where the goal is NOT to change location

Ex: “I eat cookie” or “I jump”

10)  Locative State– refer to static spatial relations where there is no movement within the context of the speech event established the location

Ex: “fish in pond”

11) State– references a state of affairs

Ex: “I like cookies” or “that’s mine”

12) Quantity– designate more than one object or person by use of a number word, plural –s, or adjectives (such as “many,” “all,” or “some”)

13) Notice– code attention to a person, object, or event and include a verb such as see, hear, look, watch, etc.

Ex: “I see birdie” or “Watch me jump”

14)  Dative– designate the recipient of an action or object, with or without a preposition

Ex: “give it to me”

15)  Additive– involve the joining of two objects, events, or states without a dependency relation between them

Ex: “I got a pen and paper”


There are so many possible categories we use everyday without conscious knowledge. This is why language is so amazing!

My last post will be up sometime this week! I hope everyone at QC has a great last couple days of classes. And to those of you who are on summer vacation already, enjoy!


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