Semantic Keys and Reading



Zev bar-Lev


Work Unit:

Department of Linguistics, the College of Arts & Letters, San Diego State University


Vol.4 No.2 (Serial No.5) 2016






Semantic Keys are elements (word-parts) of written language that give an iconic, general representation of the whole word’s meaning. In written Sino-Japanese the “radical” or semantic components play this role. For example, the character meaning ‘woman, female’ is the Semantic Key of the character for Ma ‘Mama’ (alongside the phonetic component Ma, which means ‘horse’ as a separate character). The theory of semantic Keys in both graphic and phonemic aspects is called qTheory or nanosemantics. The most innovative aspect of the present article is the hypothesis that, in languages using alphabetic writing systems, the role of Semantic Key is played by consonants, more specifically the first consonant. Thus, L meaning ‘LIFT’ is the Semantic Key of English Lift, Ladle, Lofty, aLps, eLevator, oLympus; Spanish Leva, Lecantarse, aLto, Lengua; Arabic aLLah, and Hebrew ªeL-ºaL ‘upto-above’ (the Israeli airline), Polish Lot ‘flight’ (the Polish airline); Hebrew ªeL, ªeLohim ‘God’, and haLLeluyah ‘praise-ye God’ (using Parallels, ‘Lift up God’). Evidence for the universality of the theory is shown by many examples drawn from various languages, including Indo-European Semitic, Chinese and Japanese. The theory reveals hundreds of relationships within and between languages, related and unrelated, that have been “Hiding in Plain Sight”, to mention just one example: the Parallel between Spanish Pan ‘bread’ and Mandarin Fan ‘rice’.

Key Words:

Lexicon, Semantic Theory, Key-letters, ambiguity




bar-Lev, Zev. & A. Palacas. 1980. Semantic Command over Pragmatic Priority[J]. Lingua 51:467-490.

bar-Lev, Zev. 2005. Arabic Key-Consonants [J]. Journal of Arabic & Islamic Studies, 6(6):24-63.

Starke, Michal. 2009. Nanosyntax: A Short Primer to a new approach to language [OL]. URL: [8/25/2016]

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