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Hamburger semantics

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The students in my class were arguing a question of semantics: is a hamburger a sandwich? One student noted that the menu designer at the restaurant where she worked couldn’t decide if a Chicken Burger should be listed under Hamburgers or Sandwiches. Another student invoked the USDA’s definition of a sandwich as “meat or poultry between two slices of bread.” The discussion in class got surprisingly heated, with raised voices and an expletive hurled. People feel strongly about meanings and their burgers. Not long afterwards, two friends were arguing a point of usage on Facebook. One asserted that “Words have a meaning – which facilitates clear communication among participants in a language – or they do not.” The other countered that “Words don’t have a meaning. Most words communicate many different things.” And she gave the example of the polysemy of the word “sandwich.” Words do communicate many different things and their meanings shift over time. The two discussions made me. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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