Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics
The general sense of this term - referring to the MEANING of an expression - is found pre-theoretically in LINGUISTICS, but some linguists have given it a technical status, by analysing language into two major dimensions, distinguishing a content plane from an ‘expression plane’ (analogous to the SAUSSUREAN distinction between the MEANING and FORM of linguistic SIGNS). More specifically, some approaches to WORD CLASSIFICATION recognize a class of content words or contentives, defined as words which have stateable LEXICAL meaning - the majority of words in the LANGUAGE, in fact, apart from the few FUNCTION words, whose role is primarily to express GRAMMATICAL relationships. Alternative terms include LEXICAL and FULL words. In SEMANTIC studies of DEMONSTRATIVES and INDEXICALS, the term is often used to designate the meaning of an EXPRESSION relative to a particular PRAGMATIC CONTEXT; it contrasts with CHARACTER.