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Babatunde (1995, p2) submits that “semantics” is coined from a Greek verb which means to “signify”. He further explained semantics to be the study of meaning that seeks to covey and classify human experience through language. This implies that expressions are used to refer and efforts are made to enable the hearer to perceive the reference and the overall mode of referring. “Getting the overall meaning is certainly the concern of semantics” (Babatunde 1995, p2).
is the study of meaning in language. Semantics, according to Goddard (1998, p1), is the study of meaning which stands at the very centre of the linguistic quest to understand the nature of language and human language abilities. To understand how any language works, we need to understand how its individual design works to fulfill its function as an intricate device for communicating meanings (Goddard 1998, p1). Palmer (1981, p206) states that:
Semantics is not a single-well-integrated discipline. It is not a clearly defined level of linguistics, not even comparable to phonology or grammar. Rather it is a set of studies of the use of language in relation to many different aspects of experience to linguistics and non-linguistic contexts, to participants in discourse, to their knowledge and experience, to the conditions under which a particular bit of language is appropriate.
This implies that the study of semantics is not limited only to the linguistic context but also to non-linguistic context. Thus, using semantics to analyze Psalm 51 will expose the overall meaning and the intentions of the writer in the text. Psalm 51 is divided into nineteen verses written by King David (Leupold 1969, p399) and (Stamps 1992, p852). Stamps submitted that Psalm 51 was written after David had deliberately sinned against God. “He feared that God’s presence and spirit would depart from him, leaving him spiritually destitute. Thus, he wrote the Psalm to plead for forgiveness” (Stamps 1992, p852) and Nelson (1989, p503).
1.2 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
This study aims at exploring the message in Psalm 51 through a semantic theoretical framework. It is embarked upon to identify the meanings and the intentions of the user of those words in Psalms 51. It is also intended to bring out the wealth of meaning in the Psalm and to show how the psalmist logically selects his words to plead with God for forgiveness.
Though, people have embarked on the pragmatic analysis of this text, the semantic analysis of Psalm 51 to the best of our knowledge has not been carried out. Thus, by exploring the underlying messages in the text through the semantic theoretical framework, the works strung together in the text to make meaning shall be exposed.
However, this research work is carried out to serve as a guide for future researchers who are interested in the field of semantics. In addition, this research work is embarked upon to add to the already existing pool of knowledge.
1.4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
This project is pre-occupied with the semantic analysis of Psalm 51. The text (Psalm 51) of King James’ Version shall be the data for our analysis. The entire nineteen verses of Psalm 51 shall be analyzed in chapter three of this study. The elements we shall be using in analyzing these data are the seven types of meaning by Geoffrey Leech (1974), which include Denotative, Conotative, Collocative, Thermatic, Stylistic, Reflexive and Affective meaning. We shall also review some theories of meaning namely, Referential and Image theory of meaning as part of our tools for our data analysis.