When you get in the middle of a conversation between two people, you typically have to orient yourself in what is being talked about.
You try to find connections between the words used so that you can find out what is being spoken. In all good communication, a coherent meaning arises because we as sender and receiver associate the words with each other. When we hear the words ‘pig’, ‘goat’, ‘sheep’, ‘cow’, ‘harvest’, ‘farmer’, we immediately perceive that they form a meaningful context; the words can all be categorized under the field or scenario ‘agriculture’ or ‘peasant life. If words cannot be grouped into semantic fields, then you get a text that is quite impossible to find around.
Looking at semantic fields is a fundamental part of the poem analysis in particular, because this gives us a clear certainty of what the poem mentions – and deals with. But it can of course also be used in the work of prose and non-literary texts. The rap group Suspekt launches their debut album thus
- Yo, I’m like the projectile your name stands on
- Splatter your brain on the sidewalk where you walk
- Cuts the head of your torso
- Leaving the scene in a carnage after our show
- SU on crusade then blew for attack. My crew
- suffering from a morbid form of madness
- and you get fired from your record label because of sales losses
Here two fields or scenes clearly marked with blue and red appear.
The red marks a field of violence, while the blue marks a music field. All in all, the piece of text points to the fact that the rap is used as a weapon against others in the music industry.
An analysis of the semantic fields thus gives us an overview of what fields or scenarios the text is based on, and thus what the text is basically about / thematizes, and it can be used further in our deeper understanding of the text.
All words have a basic meaning (a denotation), and a lot of words also have a co-meaning (connotation). A word’s denotation is found in a dictionary. A ‘meat’ thus has the basic meaning ‘dog’. But it also has a co-meaning – a connotation: It is a larger dog that is a bit bitchy or uneducated. This co-meaning, the connotation of the word, is associated with a value charge that can be positive or negative. Where the denotation is always neutral, then the connotation is negative or positive.
The word ‘dog’ itself has a basic meaning, but the word does not have a connotation attached to it, since the word ‘dog’ is neutral. But the word is only neutral when it is meant to signify man’s best friend. If you call a human a ‘dog’, then the denotation of the word ‘human’, but it is linked to a connotation of a human being living without rules, is primitive, straying in the streets. So a word can have a connotation when used to describe something other than what the word describes in its basic meaning, in the denotation. When creating imagery, you use this opportunity to associate a co-meaning.
‘Dog’ can also be used in a phrase like ‘he is a dog after her’, where ‘dog’ is used as a metaphor and gives a picture of his tongue out of his mouth and a little too obviously crazy about the girl. So the connotation depends to a large extent on the context (context) in which the word is included.