A Semantic Analysis Of Psalm 51

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The psalms explored the full range of human experience in a very personal and practical way. Its 50 “songs” run from the creation story through the patriarchal, theocratic, monarchical, exilic and post exilic periods. The tremendous breath of subject matter in the Psalms includes, diverse topics such as jubilation, war, peace worship, judgment, messianic prophesy, praise and lament. The psalms were set to the accompaniment of stringed instrument and served as the temple hymn book and devotional guide for the Jewish people (Nelson 1989, p483). This study is embarked upon to identify the meanings and to show how the psalmist logically select his words to plead for forgiveness. Semantics is the theory applied for this analysis with the seven types of meaning which includes Denotative, Connotative, Reflexive, Collocative, Thematic, Stylistic and Affective meaning. Our data for this research work is Psalm 51 of King James Version. The entire nineteen (19) verses is duly analyzed in chapter three of this work. In essence, semantics has enabled us to bring out wealth of meaning in the Psalm. It also helped us to discover that the psalm was meant for pleading for forgiveness.

Table of Contentsvii

1.2Purpose of the Study2
1.4Research Methodology3
1.5The Book of Psalms4
1.6Summary of the Chapter 5

2.1Definition of Semantics6
2.2LEECH’S Seven Types of Meaning8
2.2.1  Denotative Meaning8
2.2.2  Connotative Meaning9
2.2.3  Collocative Meaning 10
2.2.4  Affective Meaning 11
2.2.5  Stylistic Meaning 12
2.2.6  Thematic Meaning 13
2.2.7  Reflexive Meaning 13
2.3Theories of Meaning14
2.3.1  Referential Theory of Meaning 14
2.3.2  Image Theory of Meaning15
2.4Summary of the Chapter16

3.1     Introduction 17
3.2    Data Description46 

4.1Summary 50
4.2Findings 51
4.3Conclusion 55

Babatunde (1995, p2) submits that “semantics” is coined from a Greek verb which means to “signify”. He further explained semantics to be the study of meaning that seeks to covey and classify human experience through language. This implies that expressions are used to refer and efforts are made to enable the hearer to perceive the reference and the overall mode of referring. “Getting the overall meaning is certainly the concern of semantics” (Babatunde 1995, p2).
is the study of meaning in language. Semantics, according to Goddard (1998, p1), is the study of meaning which stands at the very centre of the linguistic quest to understand the nature of language and human language abilities. To  understand how any language works, we need to understand how its individual design works to fulfill its function as an intricate device for communicating meanings (Goddard 1998, p1). Palmer (1981, p206) states that:
Semantics is not a single-well-integrated discipline. It is not a clearly defined level of linguistics, not even comparable to phonology or grammar. Rather it is a set of studies of the use of language in relation to many different aspects of experience to linguistics and non-linguistic contexts, to participants in discourse, to their knowledge and experience, to the conditions under which a particular bit of language is appropriate.
This implies that the study of semantics is not limited only to the linguistic context but also to non-linguistic context. Thus, using semantics to analyze Psalm 51 will expose the overall meaning and the intentions of the writer in the text. Psalm 51 is divided into nineteen verses written by King David (Leupold 1969, p399) and (Stamps 1992, p852). Stamps submitted that Psalm 51 was written after David had deliberately sinned against God. “He feared that God’s presence and spirit would depart from him, leaving him spiritually destitute. Thus, he wrote the Psalm to plead for forgiveness” (Stamps 1992, p852) and Nelson (1989, p503).

This study aims at exploring the message in Psalm 51 through a semantic theoretical framework. It is embarked upon to identify the meanings and the intentions of the user of those words in Psalms 51. It is also intended to bring out the wealth of meaning in the Psalm and to show how the psalmist logically selects his words to plead with God for forgiveness. 

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Ugwu, A. (2018). A Semantic Analysis Of Psalm 51. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/a-semantic-analysis-of-psalm-51-5712

MLA 8th

Ugwu, Anderson "A Semantic Analysis Of Psalm 51" Afribary. Afribary, 29 Jan. 2018, https://afribary.com/works/a-semantic-analysis-of-psalm-51-5712. Accessed 04 Mar. 2024.


Ugwu, Anderson . "A Semantic Analysis Of Psalm 51". Afribary, Afribary, 29 Jan. 2018. Web. 04 Mar. 2024. < https://afribary.com/works/a-semantic-analysis-of-psalm-51-5712 >.


Ugwu, Anderson . "A Semantic Analysis Of Psalm 51" Afribary (2018). Accessed March 04, 2024. https://afribary.com/works/a-semantic-analysis-of-psalm-51-5712