Components of Language Part II

In the last post, we began a discussion on the components of language. In this post, we will conclude this discussion by looking at two more components of language, which are…

  • Semantics
  • Pragmatics


Semantics is the rules that determine the meaning of words. Synonyms and antonyms are also a part of semantics. Synonyms are different words that have the same meaning. Examples include “small” and “tiny” or “big” and “large.” Antonyms are two words that have opposite meanings. Examples include “big” and “little” and “small” and “large.”

Understanding semantics can allow a language user to employ a rich vocabulary that is full of alternative words and meanings. However, it is the sentence and not the individual word that most significantly shapes the meaning of communication. This is due to the fact that the entire sentence or paragraph provides context, which is something we will look at later.

There are two ways to define the meaning of a word. One is denotative and the second is connotative. The denotative meaning is the dictionary definition. The connotative is the context-specific definition. For example, a dog is a four-legged animal that barks. This is the denotative definition. The connotative definition would depend on the setting. One person may think that a dog is a giant barking monster. Another might see a dog as a cute little friend. They both know a dog is a four-legged barking animal but the further define a dog by the addition of further explanation.


Pragmatics is the study of language in the context of its use. This component of language describes the rules of communication, types of communication, and the intentions of communication. Culture is a powerful influence on the pragmatics of a language.

There are several common characteristics that influence the pragmatics and how people speak to each other. These characteristics are gender, age, race, dialect, style, social status, and role. In English, it is common to change how we communicate based on these characteristics. How we speak to our boss is different than to our children. How to speak to colleagues is different than to strangers. These differences in communication are due to pragmatics.


The components of language attempt to succinctly explain how communication takes place. Understanding these concepts will help those who are learning a language or teaching people to learn a different language where problems may be. For example. if a student uses an inappropriate phrase this may be due to a misunderstanding of pragmatics. If a student mispronounces a word this is due to issues with phonology. Language components can be valuable in identifying language learning challenges.

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