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Key Difference – Semantics vs Pragmatics

Although both semantics and pragmatics are two branches of linguistics that are related to the meaning of language, there is a major difference between the two. Knowing the difference between semantics and pragmatics can help clear the misunderstandings and miscommunication in language. Semantics is involved with the meaning of words without considering the context whereas pragmatics analyses the meaning in relation to the relevant context. Thus, the key difference between semantics and pragmatics is the fact that semantics is context independent whereas pragmatic is context dependent.

What is Semantics?

Semantics is a discipline in linguistics that analyses the meaning of words in the language. It only deals with text and analyses the meaning of words and how they are used to form meaningful contexts. The study of semantics does not take context into consideration; it is only concerned with grammar and vocabulary and conceptual meaning of a word. The meaning of a sentence remains constant whenever a certain expression is uttered. Thus, it can be said that semantics only analyses what that particular expression mean in a very general sense. Semantics has a narrow scope since it only deals with meaning.

Difference Between Semantics and Pragmatics

What is Pragmatics?

Pragmatics, in contrast, is a broad field which analyses the context in addition to grammar, vocabulary and conceptual meaning. Instead of examining what the expression means, this field studies what the speaker means in using a certain word or expression. They consider different factors surrounding the utterance such as the speaker’s intended meaning, contextual factors, and listener’s inferences in order to interpret the utterance. In simple words, pragmatics deal with what is implied in an utterance.


I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.

If we examine this utterance semantically, we’d only be concerned with the conceptual meaning, grammar, vocabulary, and the literal meaning.

However, if we are to examine this utterance in pragmatics, we’d also examine the context and what the speaker is trying to imply from this utterance. Is the speaker really going to eat a horse? Or is he trying to imply that he is extremely hungry? Is the speaker making a general comment? Or is he asking for food by this comment? Then we’d understand that the meaning of this sentence cannot be taken in a literal sense.

What is the difference between Semantics and Pragmatics?


Semantics is a branch of linguistics concerned with the meaning of morphemes, words, phrases and sentences and their relation.

Pragmatics is a branch of linguistics concerned with the use of language in different contexts and the ways in which people produce and comprehend meanings through language.


Semantics doesn’t consider the context.

Pragmatics considers the context.


Semantics is concerned with conceptual meaning, vocabulary and grammar.

Pragmatics is also concerned with speaker’s intended meaning, contextual factors, and listener’s inferences in order to interpret the utterance.


Semantics focus on the meaning of language.

Pragmatics focus on the language use.


Semantics is a narrow compared to pragmatics.

Pragmatics is a broader field when compared to semantics.