Semantics is related to meanings of words. To be more exact, it is related to connotative and denotative meanings of words and its study. Every word has a direct meaning called the denotative meaning. In addition to its exact or lexical meaning, words also acquire implied meanings called connotative meanings. Connotations are understood based only on an individual’s experience. If the encoder and decoder do not share the some connotative meaning for a word, miscommunication occurs. We have already seen how ‘bimonthly’ can mean two different concepts to two different people even at denotative level. Similarly, examine the word ‘cheap’ as an adjective. You will enjoy a ‘cheap holiday’ because you spend less than the real cost. Industries desire ‘cheap labour’ to reduce the over all cost of production. These connotations of cheap as an adjective are different from the connotations in expressions like “cheap popularity’ and “cheap joke”. If the receiver does not understand the connotation attributed by the sender, miscommunication takes place. But when words are used for denotations alone, not much damage will be done. To overcome the semantic barrier to communication, the communicator should choose the precise and exact word that will carry the same meaning for the receiver in the given context. The meaning of the word is related to context at the connotational level. A complimentary expression may derive a connotative derogative meaning which will ruin the communication process. If you examine the word ‘fellow’, you will find so many connotations to it. The word used with adjectives such as ‘nice’ and ‘lousy’ change the complexion of the word ‘fellow’. A ‘nice fellow’ and a lousy fellow’ are poles apart. If you call some one a ‘fellow scholar’, he is your contemporary. A ‘fellow traveller’ is simply your co-passenger on a train, but in another context he is a sympathizer or a secret member of the communist party. Fellowship simply means companionship / friendliness. However, in special contexts it can have different connotations. You can be a scholar with UGC (University Grants Commission) getting a fellowship.
Next post: Cultural Barriers of Communication
Previous post: Medium of Communication – Wrong choice as a barrier