Introduction to Formal Semantics 2020

Course description

Natural languages are sophisticated tools which enable us to express and understand an unbounded range of  thoughts by assembling sentences that we have never before used or heard. Formal semantics uses tools from logic to study how this impressive result is achieved, that is, how the meaning of an expression is assembled from the meanings of its parts.

This course introduces the key logical tools of formal semantics and covers some central topics in semantics, like predication, quantification, definites, indexicals, modals, and questions.

Time and location

Mondays, 16-18, via Zoom. Meeting ID and password will be communicated via LSF or email.

If you have not received these details by Thursday 29.10, please contact me.

Basic course material
Invitation to Formal Semantics
By Elizabeth Coppock and Lucas Champollion

Term paper. Guidelines.
Some suggestions for topics will be provided.

Program and material
(the program is tentative; material will be assigned as the course proceeds)

02 Nov. Introduction. What is formal semantics?
Material: Handout + Chapter 1 of the textbook
(In case you are not familiar with classical logic, read also Chapters 3 and 4)

09 Nov. Logical toolkit: the typed lambda-calculus.
Material: Chapter 5 of the textbook

16 Nov. Compositional semantics for a basic fragment of English
Material: Chapter 6.1

23 Nov. Adjectives as modifiers. Quantifiers.
Material: Chapter 6.2, 6.3, 7.1, 7.2

30 Nov. Relative clauses. Quantifiers in object position.
Material: Chapter 7.3, 7.4

07 Dec. Definite descriptions. Pronouns.

14 Dec. Anaphora and dynamic semantics

21 Dec. Introduction to intensional semantics

11 Jan. Modals

18 Jan. Indexicals

25 Jan. Presuppositions: the projection problem

01 Feb. Questions

08 Feb. Topics for term paper