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Word and Meaning


Admission requirements

Students who are not enrolled in the BA Linguistics should first contact the coordinator of studies, Else van Dijk. Self-enrollment is not allowed for this course.


To understand the nature of language and culture we must understand words. What is in a word? A word is a unit that carries meaning in a language. In this course we focus on the forms and meanings of words in the languages of the world. We explore the question of how we can describe the meanings of words and document the knowledge they embody in the world’s languages. We investigate the relations that words of a language have with each other (lexical relations). Some words in a language have the same form: they are pronounced in the same way or they are written in the same way. Compare for example, the Dutch forms bloem ‘flour’ and bloem ‘flower’. They are pronounced and written in the same way, are their meanings related, or not? Note also that the English equivalents for them are written differently but pronounced in the same way; is there any relation between their meanings? Where the meanings are related we will explore the mechanisms by which the meanings of words are extended to other related meanings, for instance through metaphor or metonymy.
Words are not only an important mirror of the mind (Leibniz), they also provide a guide to the social reality of the users of languages. Connotations and other associated meanings of words form an important window through which we can discover the patterns. In this regard, we will examine the diversity of connotations across languages, e.g. of words for animals.
Dictionaries arethe storehouse of the words of languages. We will discuss the principles for making explanotry dictionaries that capture the entire worlds of word–from their pronunciations to translation equivalents to definitions to cultural and historical information. We will practice making a dictionary of a semantic domain in a language.

Course objectives

Students will gain knowledge and insight in different aspects of words in a language, the types of information they carry and convey in interaction and the relations in which they participate

Students will gain knowledge and insight also in the documentation of lexical knowledge in languages

Students will acquire the ability to make a modern explanatory dictionary of a language practiced through participation in group workin which students create thematic mini-dictionaries

Students will be introduced to current linguistic approaches to the study of word meanings: lexical fields, semantic frames, meaning-text theory and the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach.


The timetable is available on the website of the Linguistics Bachelor

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar/Tutorial

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours=140 hours

  • Lectures: 1 x 13 = 13 hours

  • Tutorials: 1 x 13 = 13 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature; Assignments: 114 hours

Assessment method


There will be four assignments spread throughout the semester and they will count for 30% of final grade
Students are expected to make a thematic mini-dicitonary in groups of to or three based on alanguge and a semantic domain of their choice. This counts for 70% of the final grade


Assignments 30%
Mini-dictionary 70%


Students can resubmit a revised version of the mini-dictionary

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:
communicating with students: posting interim assessments, readings, and assignments

Reading list

The readings for the course will be given in class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Dr. F. K. Ameka

Coordinator of Studies: E.A. van Dijk, MSc

Education Administration Office: van Wijkplaats