Stephanie Solt & Jeremy Kuhn – Introduction to Semantics

This course is an introduction to the formal semantics of natural language. We introduce central concepts and issues in semantics, and develop a basic formal compositional model of meaning, extending it as we go to accommodate a wider range of empirical phenomena.  An emphasis will be on students developing skills in semantic analysis and argumentation.

Topics – Week 1 (Stephanie Solt)

  • Introduction and basic concepts (nature of meaning; meaning and truth; semantics vs. pragmatic; meaning relations)
  • The formal representation of meaning (predicates and arguments; functions and sets; logical connectives; semantic types)
  • Meaning composition (compositional rules; lambda abstraction; lambda conversion, modification)
  •  Quantification (logical quantifiers; quantifier scope; generalized quantifiers and their properties)

Topics – Week 2 (Jeremy Kuhn)

  •  Pronouns and binding
  • Intensionality, modality, and possible worlds
  • Focus and alternatives 

Optional Reading

Kearns, Kate (2011). Semantics (2nd edition). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.