[Smt-talk] semantics

mmorse at ca.inter.net mmorse at ca.inter.net
Tue Apr 7 12:50:20 PDT 2009

Quoting Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr>:

>> Michael,

There are of course many syntactic units in music, of varying sizes
at different levels. The point is that music does have a grammar
(i.e. syntactic rules) at the level of the movement (as well as at
the level of the phrase), while linguistic grammar (and especially
Chomskyan grammar) cannot deal with units larger than the sentence.
There is, that I know, no explicit grammar of the linguistic

Thanks for the clarification. And now I owe you one:

>> I don't quite see what you mean by "semantic quanta" in the context
of Benveniste – who uses "semantic" in a somewhat unusual sense, at
least in the French version. Can you be more specific?<<

I confess to being lazy, and largely relying on the (quite passable)  
ET of the first volume of Problems in General Linguistics. And it has  
been a decade since I read it, but what I recall is that Benveniste  
struggled mightily with the phonetic size of linguistically  
meaningful, ie semantic units. The same phoneme or handful of phonemes  
could amount to a full statement in one context, and an purely  
dependent part of an utterance in another. Thus part of his problem  
was or became a quantitive dimension of how sounds or concatenations  
of sounds become significant, ie how "much" sound is needed for an  
utterance. That's what I meant by the (admittedly hazy, and I  
apologize) expression "semantic quanta."

Trent University
Pbgh, ON

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