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.
Suggestions for term paper.

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. Quantifiers in object position.
Material: Chapter 7.4

07 Dec. Relative clauses. Pronouns.
Material: Chapter 7.3, 7.5

14 Dec. Anaphora and dynamic semantics.
Material: Dynamic Predicate Logic (up to 3.2; rest is optional)

21 Dec. Definite descriptions.
Material: Chapter 8.1, 8.2. Class handout.

11 Jan. Introduction to intensional semantics.
Material: Chapter 13.1–13.4. Class handout.

18 Jan. Modals
Material: Chapter 3 of von Fintel and Heim’s lecture notes. Class handout.
Optional reading: Kratzer 1981

25 Jan. Indexicals
Material: Chapter 12.3 + 13.7. Kaplan 1979. Class handout.

01 Feb. Presuppositions: the projection problem
Material: Karttunen 1974, Heim 1988. Class handout.

08 Feb. Questions
Material: Ch. 1-5 of the inquisitive semantics textbook.
See also these slides from the previous edition of the course.
Optional reading: composing questions in inquisitive semantics.