Why can't (the Noun Adjunct) 'meaning' substitute (the Adjective) 'semantic' (I bolded) in the examples below?

Source: Paul Elbourne, Meaning: A Slim Guide to Semantics (1 ed. 2011).

[ p. 33 : ]   In this chapter I will discuss some semantic properties that words are traditionally supposed to have. I will concentrate on synonymy, ambiguity, and vagueness.

[ p. 40 : ] Faster processing caused by semantic similarity is called semantic priming.

[ p. 117 : ] Anaphora is the semantic dependency between pronouns and Other phrases illustrated in (2) and (7): the pronouns in these cases seem to be dependent on preceding quantifier phrases in some way for their semantic functioning.

[ p. 126 : ] So now we come to the claim about the proposition expressed that involves covert indexicals: it is that the proposition expressed is always the result of assigning referents or other semantic values to the words in a syntactic tree and then combining those semantic values by means of compositional rules.

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    Do you have evidence that "semantic" can't be replaced with "meaning" and still refer to the same facts? I assume you're not asking about the style question, which would be off topic. – user6726 May 1 '17 at 4:26
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    Because meaning is a noun and semantic is an adjective. – curiousdannii May 2 '17 at 23:32
  • @curiousdannii I meant, in my first sentence, that 'meaning' can be a Noun Adjunct? – NNOX Apps May 6 '17 at 15:38

Because meaning is a dangerous term. There has been too much debate, during the XX century, about the "meaning of meaning", i.e. about the problem of defining the essence of the linguistic meaning as a phenomenon. A widely shared solution has never been reached in such respect. Therefore, authors might prefer to avoid such term at all.

Moreover, in the contemporary usage semantics refers to a network of selectional properties that a lexeme can have, rather than to a flat meaning. The latter can be easily ignored in a structural — grammatical, morphological or syntactic — analysis of the language. For example, we are usually not interested in the concrete meaning of the verbs, since doing grammar means making generalizations over a set of different but analogous elements. We are interested, instead, in their argumental structure, subcategorization etc., i.e. whether a verb is (di)transitive or intransitive, whether it imposes some semantic features on its arguments (like when we say that the verb assassinate must have a [+human] direct object while the verb elapse cannot have a [+human] subject), or the like.


Because meaning refers to a particular or specific case or example, something practical, whilest semantic or semantics refer to an abstract theory of language in general, to metanarration.

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