What is the Affective Meaning of a Word? Semantics Basics

What is the Affective Meaning of a Word? Semantics Basics
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Connotation, Denotation, and Affective Meaning

Semantics is the study of meaning in the human language. It not only discusses what is meant when we say something, but it also discusses how we imbue what we say with what we mean. When we do a semantic analysis, there are many factors that we must take into consideration. All words have both denotative, or literal, meaning and connotative, or associative, meaning. They may also have affective meaning for individuals. [caption id="attachment_131325” align="aligncenter” width="640”]

Emotions and Affective Meaning

It is important to remember that each individual will have a different affective meaning for a word. As such, only the person using a word will be aware of the particular meaning that they hold with the word. For example, we can discuss the word winter further. The word winter denotatively refers to a time period during which either the northern or southern hemisphere is furthest away from the sun. The affective meaning for the word winter is going to be different for each person who uses the word. For instance, a person who enjoyed going sledding as a child would associate these personal memories with the word winter, and the word would take on aspects of these positive emotions. However, if a child was picked on and was the target of snowballs during the winter, then the word would mean something different as the word would take on aspects of these negative emotions.

The Personal Aspect

While semantics is not the most concrete field of linguistics in general, discussing affective meaning is perhaps the least concrete aspect of semantics. This can make for rather abstract discussions. It is difficult to discuss or assume anything about why a person uses a word when it comes to personal feelings. Each individual will have their own experiences associated with a word, and as such only the person doing a semantic analysis of their own language can properly discuss the meaning of their word choice. This does not make the affective meaning a meaningless or useless concept. A person can derive their own affective meaning from a word and choose how to interpret a semantic analysis differently. Through examining this concept, we can see how every person can bring their own unique interpretation to the same set of words. Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay