The language is a succession of
different milestones and has different functions. At the beginning of life,
babies use language as a playful function, to play and express what they want
to their parents. Later, an affective function is added, so the child can talk
about his feeling. Next, come the practical and the representative functions
which enable us to give informations and tell stories. And finally, the language
takes a dialectic function as it can be used as an argument of thoughts
(Ombredane, 1951, as cited in Martin, 2015).
Therefore, the language is an essential
constituant of the human communication, it enables us to communicate between us
throught the speech and the use of words. Words refer to meanings and our
knowledge of those meanings is huge.
Semantics is the aspect
of language that relates to the understanding of the meaning of the words. It coexists with differents aspects of language such as the
phonology ; the study of the sound system of language ; the
morphology ; the study of the smallest units of language that carry meaning ;
the syntax ; the study of rules for ordering words to form phrases and
sentences and the pragmatic which is « about the knowledge that
allows the speaker to employ a linguistic utterance to achieve a certain
communicative effect » (Cummings, 2009, p.7)
Ferdinand de Saussure said in his
theory of language that the word is a
physical entity composed by two faces (Saussure, 1964 as cited in Spinnelli
& Ferrand, 2005). Indeed, he states that the language is made of
linguistics signs, each composed by a concept (or meaning) and a sound pattern
(or form), inseparable from one another. The relationship between the concept
(signfied) and the form (the signifier) is completely arbitrary which means
that there is no natural or logical link between the properties of the form to
the concept’s properties because a concept can be associated to different sound
patterns. Together, those signified and signifier form the linguistic system.
Signs can not exist by themselves and are
dependant of the context in which they occur. Saussure said that each sign
takes place in a network of other signs in which they gain their meaning
accordingly. They exist in relation to one another so that they can make sense
when not isolated. There are two kind of relations. The first one is the
paradigmatic (associative) relation, the axe of selection of the different
elements involved, not present but associated by the mind, in the statement. It
is the inventory of all the units susceptible to have the same function in the
same context. The second relation is the syntagmatic relation, wich is the axe
of the combination on the speaking chain, the relations that exist when units
are combined. Those two relations are inseparable and foster a solidarity
between each other (Martin, 2015 & Galdes, 2017)
In what aspects is semantic important and relevant to the field of
speech-language pathologists ?
Semantic is very important and
relevant for the field of speech-language pathologists (SLP) because of the
importance of the communication act. Indeed, communication is the act of
transfering information. We have to make sure that we understand the meaning of
the words in order to have a proper conversation.
SLPs are the experts of
communication and are concerned with preventing, assessing, facilitating and
treating difficulties related to message formulation, motor planning, articulatory
execution, language decoding and message interpretation (Galdes, 2017). Each of
those are very important to communicate.
Speech language pathologists can
work with really young children. Acquisition of words plays a central role in
children’s development. The study of semantics provides the SLP with the
understanding of each milestone that occurs from the early age.
Language development starts at birth
through early interactions between the child and his environment (parents,
relatives,…) and with the influence of internal cognitive mechanism such as the
sensory system for example.
Children’s first words are an important
step in early development. SLPs need to know the typical development in
children in order to identify a potential trouble. For example, this knowledge
would help them to point out the differences between a language delay, which is
a delay more than a disorder, is developmental and transient (around 5-6 years
old usually, the delay no longer exists), and a disphasia which is a long term
specific language disorder (Caldeira & Radelet, 2015).