Semantics 331/731
Click on an icon to jump to a module

The nature of meaning

M00: Welcome to semantics

Welcome to the course

Welcomes you to the course and introduces the lecturelet.

M02: Compositionality

Discusses the nature of compositional meaning, and its benefits for semanticists.

M03 : Expression types

Discusses different expressions and how we need to keep them distinct

M04 : Testing for truth

Techniques on building contexts and using stimuli to gather semantic evidence.

M05: Truth-based relations between propositions

Examines relationships like contradiction and synonymy, and discusses why they're useful..

M06: Entailment

Explores entailment in detail, notably upward and downward entailment.

M07: Ambiguity

Discusses the nature of semantic ambiguity and some of its sources.

M08: Felicity

Introduces the concept of felicity, and the different ways that expression can be "bad" in the semantics.

M09: Saturation

Introduces the concept of saturation.

M10: Presupposition

A new way for propositions to relate to each other.

Reading: Huang

M11: Reference and Definiteness

Introduces concepts of reference and the various types of definiteness

Reading : Lyons

M12: Modification

Introduces various types of modification

M13: Pronouns

Types of pronouns

M14: Pragmatics

Introduction to pragmatics

M15: Negation


M16: Introduction to temporal encoding

Introduction to temporal encoding

(Handout = Klein reading)

Formal fundamentals

F01: Formal semantics

Introduces what formal semantics is and why we use it.

F02: Sets

Absolute introduction to set theory

F03: Denotation

What is a meaning? How do we express it? And what are those weird double brackets, anyways?

F04: Set abstraction

Abstracting over a set to find a property that applies to its members.

F05: Set relations

Important relations between sets

F06: Functions

Introduces functions in a broad sense

F07: Characteristic functions and denotations

Introduces characteristic functions, and links them to denotations and abstracted sets

F08: Introduction to Composition

Introduces composition and compositional processes, starting with the three most basic compositional rules.

Rules: TN, NN, FA

F09: Ordered pairs

Discusses ordered pairs, a useful concept.

F10: Lambda calculus

Introduces the common and useful way to write functions.

F11: Transitivity

What happens when a verb (and a function) has two arguments?

F12: If and only if

Why we use if and only if in our functions

F13: Ontologies and types

Introduces and discusses type-driven interpretation

F14: Functions as Arguments

Time to take functional application to the next level!!!

F15: Formalizing Definiteness

Crucial discussion on how we formalize meanings, involving the word the

F16: Intersective Modification

Formalizes modification

Rule: PM

F17: Piecing together prepositions

Analytically figure out how prepositions compose.

F18: Assignment Functions

Introduces assignment functions

F19: Interpreting Pronouns

How we use variable assignments to interpret pronoun reference

Rule: LT, PR

F20: Interpreting phi-features

Links phi-features to presuppositional content

F21: Sets and saturated functions

Review of how to turn truth-conditional sets into functions, especially when we want the function to be saturated in a certain way.

F22: Assignment Modification

How to modify an assignment to our whims

F23: Relative clauses and traces

How do we build relative clauses? What do traces mean? And more broadly: How can we add arguments to a formal expression?

Rule: PA

F24: Variable Binding

How binding works in the semantics

F25: Common Abbreviations

Simpler ways to write things, now that we know what they're simplifications of.

The syntax-semantics interface

I01: The Architecture of the Grammar

Discusses the basic concepts behind how the grammar is organized, and the semantics' place in it, so that we can see just what linguistic objects we're trying to explain the meaning of.

I02: Determiner Phrases

Sketches out how nominal expressions are built.

I04: VP-Internal Subjects

Situates the base-generation of subjects inside the VP.


Q01: Quantification

Introduces the notion of quantification, and some of the key concepts.

Q02: Existential Quantification

Quantification with a, some

Q03: Universal Quantification

Quantification with all, every, each

Q04: Negative Quantification

Quantification with no, none as determiners.

Q05: Scope

Introduction to scope relations

Q06: Composition of subject quantifiers

Quick practice in composition

Q07: Composition of Object Quantifiers

A very crucial problem with a big solution

Q08: Covariation and Variable Binding

The power of binding and a new kind of ambiguity

Verbal Semantics

V01: Davidsonian events

A monumental change to our ontology

V02: Building a VP with events

How do we re-write our verb denotations and our adverbial denotations to fit Davidsonian events?

V03: Existential closure of events

Discusses why we need to existentially quantify over events.

V04: Tense and topic time

Explains how tense is tied to the context.

V05: Aspect

Introduces aspect

V06: Formalizing tense and aspect

Formalizes tense and aspect

V07: Aktionsart

Exploring the internal temporal properties of event descriptions

V08: Argument Structure

Introducing argument structure and valency

V09: Voice

Relation between argument stucture and Valency

V10: Thematic Roles

Major development in linking semantics and syntax

Read Saeed Ch 6 in advance

V11: Unaccusativity

More of a syntax lecturelet, but fitting here

V12: Neo-Davidsonian Semantics

A way to add thematic roles to the composition

V13: Away From Thematic Roles

Problems with thematic roles make us wonder if we even need them.

Reading: Williams Ch 6, Dowty 1991

V14: Severing the external argument

A very important asymmetry, and our first decomposition of the argument structure.

Reading: Kratzer 1996

V15: Event decomposition

Breaking down events