Semantic domain  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Semantics is a term that refers to how meaning is assigned in language . A domain is essentially a specific place or territory. A semantic domain is a specific place that shares a set of meanings, or a language that holds its meaning, within the given context of the place. Harriet Ottenheimer (2006), a writer in Linguistic Anthropology, defines a semantic domain as a “specific area of cultural emphasis” (p. 18).

In the social sciences, the concept of semantic domains stemmed from the ideas of cognitive anthropology. The quest was originally to see how the words that groups of humans use to describe certain things are relative to the underlying perceptions and meanings that those groups share (Ottenheimer, 2006, p. 18). Ethnosemantics became the field that concentrated around the study of these semantic domains, and more specifically the study of how categorization and context of words and groups of words reflected the ways that different cultures categorize words into speech and assign meaning to their language (Ottenheimer, 2006, p. 18).


Many sports have specific semantic domains that entail terminology that is specific to that particular sport. In order to understand the meanings of these terms one would need to understand the context and domain of that sport. For instance, in basketball there are many words that are specific to the sport. Free throw, court, half court, three pointer, and point guard are all terms that are specific to the sport of basketball. These words make very little sense when used outside of the semantic domain of basketball.

Another example of a semantic domain would be a coffee shop. The words latte, cappucino, or Starbucks probably would not be understood unless one could associate this language with the semantic domain of a coffee shop.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Semantic domain" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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