AskDefine | Define sememe

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The smallest unit of meaning; especially the meaning expressed by a morpheme.

Extensive Definition

Sememe (Greek semaino - mean, signify) - semantical language unit of meaning, correlative to morpheme.
A sememe is a proposed unit of transmitted or intended meaning; it is atomic or indivisible. A sememe can be the meaning expressed by a morpheme, such as the English pluralizing morpheme -s, which carries the sememic feature [+ plural]. Alternately, a single sememe (for example [go] or [move]) can be conceived as the abstract representation of such verbs as skate, roll, jump, slide, turn, or boogie. It can be thought of as the semantic counterpart to any of the following: a meme in a culture, a gene in a genetic make-up, or an atom (or, more specifically, an elementary particle) in a substance.
There are five types of sememes, two denotational and three conotational, while conotational are occurring only in phrase units (they do not reflect the denotat):
  1. Denotational 1: Straight denotation, for example "head" (body);
  2. Denotational 2: Secondary, denotation by resemblance with other denotation: "head" (ship);
  3. Conotational 1:
  4. Conotational 2:
  5. Conotational 3:



  • The sememe in "Litera", I . Reprinted in: Readings in linguistics II

See also

sememe in Spanish: Semema
sememe in French: Sémème
sememe in Galician: Semema
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