Ling 116a. Introduction to semantics Fall 07 Boylston 303 Gennaro Chierchia Syllabus 1.

The notion of semantic competence (entailment, presupposition, implicature) What is knowledge of meaning? How do speakers understand expressions of their language? In particular, how can one effortlessly understand sentences never encountered before? We will articulate and defend the view that knowledge of meaning is inherently relational: it involves being able to locate an expression in a network of relationships with other expressions and to reason with and about them. We will define and learn to identify a core set of semantic relationhips. 2. Truth, reference, compositionality. Argument structure and connectives. What is the core semantics of clauses? How are parts of speech (Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, Prepositions, et.c) interpreted? And how do their interpretations fit with each other? We will argue that our capacity to attach meanings to symbols is grounded in a capacity to reason and infer. We understand each other because we spontaneously develop a logic in tandem with and as part of language. Reference and truth are key notions in developing this idea into an empirically effective and computationally tractable approach to linguistic meaning and communication. 3. Quantifiers (conservativity, negative polarity) A noun phrase comes with articles and quantifiers (every, some, most,…). These elements enable us to exchange general information about universes of discourse without having to refer to particular entities. They are one of the planks of the expressive power of language. How does quantification work in the languages of the world? 4. Modification, relative clauses and binding. Through modification of nouns and verbs we are able to extend indefinitely the boundary of any lexicon. Modification is useful, in fact fundamental, to understand how syntax and semantics interact and to see the recursive nature of language at work. 5. Logical Form The claim that meaning arises out of the convergence of syntax and logic takes on a precise, empirically falsifiable form.

6. Internalism, externalism and other foundational issues Is meaning in the mind? Or is it in the relation of symbols with aspects of the world? What role can modern linguistic semantics play with respect to questions of this sort? Requirements: Readings (see below). Weekly assignments. Handed out on Th, due on Tu (70%); final take home (30%). Readings. Class handouts. Also selected sections from: G. Chierchia and S. Mc Connell-Ginet Meaning and Grammar, MIT Press, 2000 (2nd ed.) Further recommended readings from: I. Heim and A. Kratzer Semantics in Generative Grammar, Blackwell, 1998.

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