The study of word meaning. The lexical items that lexical semantics is concerned with, form the basic expressions that constitute composite meaning. As in semantics in general, one distinguishes three major approaches to meaning: we can ask ourselves how words refer to entities (denotational), how words are represented in the mental lexicon (mentalistic) and how words are used in the appropriate contexts (pragmatic). With respect to compositional theories, two lexical theories are directly relevant: decomposition of word meaning, and a theory using meaning postulates. Traditional problems concern semantic relations between words (like homonymy, synonymy, hyperonymy, and hyponymy), thematic roles, fixed versus variable word meaning and polysemy and metaphoric and idiomatic interpretation.
- Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures, Cambridge, MIT-Press.