Sem (linguistics)

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The term Sem (Greek sema , "sign"; French. Sème ; Eng. Seme ) is a technical term used in linguistic semantics. In its main meaning, it describes the smallest elements (parts, components) of the meaning of words or lexemes .

Seme as the smallest components of meaning (main meaning)

The concept of semen is based on the assumption that the meaning of words ( lexemes ) can be described as a combination of semen. This amalgamation of semen in one word is known as semem . Every word has a combination of semes that distinguish it from other words in at least one of these semes.
The word "mother" includes z. B. the semes: [human], [adult], [female], [has child] etc. These semes can also be used to describe the meaning of other words. So the Sem [female] is also part of the meaning of “queen”, “daughter” or “lioness”. The entirety of the semes applies only to the semem “mother”.

The term Sem goes back to the French linguists Algirdas Julien Greimas (Lithuania) and Bernard Pottier . The term semantic characteristic used in component analysis corresponds to the term semantic .

The following example for the analysis of a section of the word field seating comes from Pottier ([French 1965] 1978: 404):

Lexeme To sit On feet For 1 person With backrest With armrests
sofa + + - (+) (+)
armchair + + + + +
chair + + + + -
stool + + + - -

[To sit], [on feet] etc. are the semes of this small word field. The characters “+” and “-” indicate whether the semester in question applies to the lexeme in question or not. The set of semes of a word defines its semem, i.e. its meaning. In this way, entire word fields can be systematically represented using the same semes.


Distinctive sem

In some cases, semes are only considered to be those (in the broader sense of the main meaning) that have a distinctive function within a paradigm ( word field ), while the common feature is called noem .

Sentence-analogous sign

Luis J. Prieto (1966) calls Sem “a special sign whose signified does not correspond to a sign, but to a statement made by language”.

Sem also stands for texts .

See also


  • Wilfried Kürschner: Grammatical Compendium. Systematic index of basic grammatical terms. 3. Edition. Francke, Tübingen / Basel 1997. ISBN 3-8252-1526-1
  • Bernard Pottier: The semantic definition in dictionaries . In: Horst Geckeler (ed.): Structural meaning theory . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1978, pp. 402-411 ISBN 3-534-06471-2 . (French original 1965)
  • Helmut Rehbock: Sem. In: Helmut Glück (Ed.), With the assistance of Friederike Schmöe : Metzler Lexikon Sprache. 3rd, revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-476-02056-8 .
  • Herbert Ernst Wiegand , Werner Wolski: Lexical semantics . In: Hans Peter Althaus, Helmut Henne, Herbert Ernst Wiegand: Lexicon of German linguistics. 2nd, completely revised and enlarged edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1980, pp. 199-211. Section: On French structuralism : pp. 200–202. ISBN 3-484-10389-2

Web links

Wiktionary: Sem  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 , p. 590.
  2. ^ Bernard Pottier: Design of a modern semantics. In: Horst Geckeler (ed.): Structural meaning theory . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1978, pp. 45-89 ISBN 3-534-06471-2 . (French original 1964)
  3. Rosemarie Lühr: New High German. Fink, Munich 1986, p. 248ff. ISBN 3-7705-2287-7
  4. ^ So Wiegand and Henne after Rehbock, Sem, in: Metzler-Lexikon Sprach, 3rd edition (2005)
  5. Eco, Umberto: Introduction to Semiotics. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1972, pp. 236-237; quoted from Rehbock, Sem ( Memento from February 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), in: Metzler-Lexikon Sprache, 3rd edition (2005) Prieto uses "Sem" "for sentence-analogous utterances"
  6. after Rehbock, Sem, in: Metzler-Lexikon Sprach, 3rd edition (2005) by Kristeva