Basic notions

Language without meaning is meaningless.
Roman Jakobson

In describing the meaning of words, people usually start out from the word form and ask for its meaning. This way of studying meaning is called semasiology. In contrast, onomasiology begins with a given meaning and asks for the kinds of forms that are used to express it.

The systematic relationship between form and meaning is often described in terms of sign models according to which language is defined as a system of arbitrary signs. In order to characterize the meaning that is denoted by the linguistic expression, three central pairs of terms play an important role: reference and sense, extension and intension, denotation and connotation. The lexical meaning of word forms is usually referred to as descriptive or referential meaning. Additionally, several other types of meaning are superimposed upon the basic meaning of the linguistic expression.

The linguistic sign
Reference and sense
Types of meaning

Exercises on basic notions

An icon: a sign based on similarity
Source of the picture: