All linguistic units may be said to have meaning of some kind. The branch of lexicology that studies meaning is known as SEMASIOLOGY. Meaning is one of the most controversial terms in the theory of language. There is no universally accepted deﬁnition of meaning. There are two schools of thought in the present-day linguistics representing the main lines of contemporary thinking on the problem: the referential approach, which seeks to formulate the essence of meaning by establishing the interdependence between words and the things or concepts they denote, and the functional approach, which studies the functions of a word in speech and is less concerned with what meaning is than with how it works.
Types of meaning. It is more or less universally recognized that word-meaning is not homogeneous but is made up of various components the combination and interrelation of which determine to a great extent the inner facet of the word. These components are usually described as types of meaning. The two main types of meaning are the grammatical and the lexical meanings.
Grammatical meaning. We notice, e.g., that word-forms, such as GIRLS, TABLES, TREES, etc. though denoting widely different objects of reality have something in common. This common element is the grammatical meaning of plurality which can be found in all of them. Thus grammatical meaning may be deﬁned as the component of meaning recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words as, e.g., the tense meaning in the word-forms of verbs ( asked, thought, played, etc.) or the case meaning in the word-forms of various nouns ( girl’s, boy’s, children’s, etc.).
Lexical meaning. Unlike the grammatical meaning this component is identical in all forms of the word. Thus, e.g., the word-forms GO, GOES, WENT, GOING, GONE possess different grammatical meanings of tense, person and so on, but in each of these forms we ﬁnd one and the same semantic component denoting the process of movement. This is the lexical meaning of the word which may be described as the component of meaning proper to the word as a linguistic unit, i.e. recurrent in all the forms of this word.
Both the lexical and the grammatical meaning make up the word-meaning as neither can exist without the other.
Lexical meaning is viewed as possessing denotational and connotational components. The denotational component is actually what makes communication possible. The connotational component comprises the emotive charge and the stylistic reference proper to the word as a linguistic unit in the given language system.
Words contain an element of emotive evaluation; e.g., A HOVEL denotes “a small house or cottage” and besides implies a miserable dwelling place, dirty in bad repair and in general unpleasant to live in.