A Semantic Analysis to Lewis Carroll’s Novel Alice in Wonderland

  • Zhalla Adam Kadir Department of English - College of languages / Salahaddin University-Erbil
  • Suhayla Hameed Majeed Department of English - College of languages / Salahaddin University-Erbil
Keywords: Semantics, Syntagmatic relation, Paradigmatic relation, Word play, Humor


This semantic study is an attempt to analyze Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Being a logician, Lewis Carroll must have been an enthusiastic investigator of the semantic phenomena in language. His works provide an insight into the issues of meaning, the consequences of word play and ambiguity in the creation of humor. Following this tendency, the researcher examines the concepts of syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations and aims at shedding light on the way they operate to trigger laughter. Consequently, the researcher strives to answer the questions; what are the syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations used in the story, how these relations are used by the writer to form the language of the story, and to what extent humor is achieved by the use of these semantic relations. The research uses a qualitative and descriptive method. First, it describes the types of syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations and then identifies these relations in the novel. Based on the analysis of the data, it is concluded that Carroll used collocation, idiom, and proverb on the syntagmatic plane and synonymy, antonym, hyponymy, homonymy, and polysemy on the paradigmatic plane to produce humorous effect.


Aarts, B., Chalker, S. & Weiner, E., 2014. The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar. 2nd ed. UK: Oxford University Press.
Aitchison, J., 2003. Linguistics: teach yourlsef. UK: Hodder Education.
Aitchison, J., 2012. Words in the Mind:An Introduction to the Mental Lexicon. 4ed ed. UK: Wily- Blackwell.1
Al-Sulaimaan, M., 2016. Semantics and Pragmatics. Erbil: Lebanese French University .
Aronoff, M. & Rees-Miller, J.,2001. The Hand Book of Linguistics. USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Bauer, L., 2012. Begining Linguistics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Chiaro, D., 1992. The Language of Jokes:Analysing verbal play. London: Routledge.
Cruse, D. A.,1986. Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cruse, A., 2006. A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Crystal, D., 1994. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Holyhead: Cambridge University Press.
Crystal, D., 2003. A Dictionary of Linguistics & Phonetics. 5th ed. USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Crystal, D., 2006. How Language Works. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Culler, J., 1986. Ferdinand de Saussure. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Denham, K. & Lobeck, A.2013. Linguistics or Everone: An Introduction. 2nd ed. US: Lyn Uhl.
Ducrot, O. & Todorov, T. 1979. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Sciences of Language. US: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Finch, G., 2005. Key Concepts in Language and Linguistics. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan Press.
Fromkin,V., Rodman, R. & Hyams, N. 2003. An Introduction to Language. 7th ed. USA: Heinle.
Hazen, K., 2015. An Introduction to Lnguage. 1st ed. UK: John Wiley & Sons,Inc.
Hudson, R., 1996. Sociolinguistics. 2nd ed. USA: Cambridge University Press.
Hurford, J., Heasley, B. & Smith, M. 2007. Semantics: a coursebook. 2nd ed. USA: Cambridge University Press.
Jackson, H., 1988. Words and Their Meaning. New York: Longman.
Kempson, R. M., 1977. Semantic Theory : Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. 4th ed. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press.
Leech, G. N., 1974. Semantics. New York: Penguin.
Lobner, S., 2013. Understanding Semantics. 2nd ed. UK: Routledge.
Lyons, J., 1981. Language and Linguistics: An Introduction. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Manser, M.H., 2007. The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs.2nd ed.New York. Infobase Publishing. Accessed [ January 5, 2019] available at: HYPERLINK "https://books.google.iq/books?id=fgaUQc8NbTYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+facts+on+the+file+dictionary+of+proverbs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjmsPKIjI3YAhXBJMAKHXzRAnIQ6AEIJzAA" \l "v=onepage&q=the%20facts%20on%20the%20file%20dictionary%20of%20proverbs&f=false" https://books.google.iq/books?
Martin, R. A., 2007. The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach. Burlington: Elsevier Academic Press.
Murphy, M. L., 2003. Semantic Relations and the Lexicon. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Norrick, N.R,1985. How Proverbs Mean. Berlin. Walter de Gruyter.
Nunan, D., 2013. What is This Thing Called Language. 2nd ed. UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Palmer, F. R., 1981. Semantics. 2nd ed. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Proverb. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Accessed January 25 2019 from HYPERLINK "https://www.thefreedictionary.com/proverb" https://www.thefreedictionary.com/proverb
Ross, A., 2005. The Language of Humour. London: Taylor & Francis e-Library.
Seidl, J. & McMordie,w., 1988. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Szubko-Sitarek, W.,2015.Multilingual Lexical Recognition in the Mental Lexicon of Third Language Users. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Accessed [november 15 2018] from HYPERLINK "https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Psycholinguistics/Lexical_Access" \l "cite_note-Forster-24" https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Psycholinguistics/Lexical_Access#cite_
Trask, R., 1999. Key Concepts in Language and Linguistics. London: Routledge.
Trask, R., 1999. Language: The Basics. 2nd ed. UK: Routledge.
West, F., 1975. The Way of Language, An Introduction. USA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,Inc.
Widdowson, H.G., 1996. Linguistics. UK: Oxford University Press.
Yule, G., 1996. The Study of Language. 2nd ed. UK: Cambridge University Press.
How to Cite
Kadir Z, Majeed S. A Semantic Analysis to Lewis Carroll’s Novel Alice in Wonderland. JAHS [Internet]. 5Dec.2019 [cited 22Jan.2020];23(6):261 -274. Available from: http://zancojournals.su.edu.krd/index.php/JAHS/article/view/3079

Most read articles by the same author(s)