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In general, semantics (from the Greek semantikos, or "significant meaning," derived from sema, sign) is the study of meaning, in some sense of that term. Semantics is often opposed to syntax, in which case the former pertains to what something means while the latter pertains to the formal structure/patterns in which something is expressed (e.g. written or spoken).

Several more particular senses of the word can be identified:

1. Semantics is a subfield of linguistics that is traditionally defined as the study of meaning of (parts of) words, phrases, sentences, and texts. Semantics can be approached from a theoretical as well as an empirical (e.g. psycholinguistic) point of view. The decompositional perspective towards meaning holds that the meaning of words can be analyzed by defining meaning atoms or primitives, which establish a language of thought. An area of study is the meaning of compounds, another is the study of relations between different linguistic expressions (homonymy, synonymy, antonymy, polysemy, hypernymy, hyponymy, meronymy, holonymy, exocentric, and endocentric). Semantics includes the study of thematic roles, argument structure, and its linking to syntax. Semantics deals with sense and reference, truth conditions and discourse analysis. Pragmatics is often considered a part of semantics.

See also: semantic property, semantic class, semantic feature, semantic progression

2. "Semantics" is also used as a term in mathematics and computer science. See formal semantics of programming languages, denotational semantics, operational semantics, axiomatic semantics.

3. Semantics is also a branch of formal logic, alongside Grammar, Proof Theory, and Applications. Semantics provides "interpretations" of formal languages, in the strict sense that an interpretation is a mapping of the atomic elements of a language (the simple sentences; or the simple terms, predicates, and operators) into a "domain of interpretation" (truth values, or objects, or numbers) so as way as to provide enough information to evaluate all the sentences in the language, or at least in the theory under question; and semantics provides the method for deriving these valuations of whole sentences, theories, etc., from the interpretations of their parts.

See also: