I know that connotation meaning belongs to semantic meaning, but what I'm confused about is the connotation meaning is affected by the context, isn't it? If so, why does it not belong to pragmatic meaning?

  • Broadly, none at all. Could you Post some underlying reasoning? Jun 17, 2020 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


The study of meaning is usually divided into two sub-areas, semantics and pragmatics, where semantics is about literal, denotative meaning (looking only at the linguistic form) and pragmatics is about how non-semantic context and semantics interact to generate the broader meaning / communicative function of an utterance. Connotation is considered to be part of pragmatics. Confusion might arise over different meanings or definitions of "semantics", and the fact that sometimes literal semantics is called "sentence / word meaning" and pragmatics is called "speaker meaning".

  • Thank you for your reply! But why does connotation meaning belong to semantic meanings in many books? Can we say connotation meaning belongs to both semantics and pragmatics?
    – ronghe
    Jun 17, 2020 at 2:13
  • 1
    Because those books were not written by linguists. The problem is with the word meaning; it has a popular sense of 'whatever one gets out of an utterance', and a technical sense of 'formal logical structure' (excluding "connotation", which has only a popular and not a technical sense). What's called "connotation" in composition (not linguistics) textbooks as a part of "semantics" is just what linguists call "pragmatics". You have to realize that there is far more misinformation available about language than there is real information.
    – jlawler
    Jun 17, 2020 at 14:28
  • I can't say that I have ever encountered the term "semantic meaning". If an author only speaks of semantics and not at all of pragmatics, I would suspect that they are using "semantics" as equivalent to "meaning", and didn't get the memo from Austin, Searle and others.
    – user6726
    Jun 17, 2020 at 14:43
  • "Austin, Searle, and others" were precisely not linguists. Meaning and semantics have long histories in philosophy. As Wittgenstein put it, "Meaning is one of the words of which one may say that they have odd jobs in our language ... What causes most trouble in philosophy is that we are tempted to describe the use of important 'odd-job' words as though they were words with regular functions."
    – jlawler
    Jun 17, 2020 at 16:13
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    And yet, linguists have learned a lot about semantics and meaning from reading what the philosophers have to say. A number of semanticists held/hold joint appointments in philosophy.
    – user6726
    Jun 17, 2020 at 16:15

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