This is the first of two courses in formal semantics, designed to introduce students to the core empirical domain of natural language semantics and to familiarize them with the analytical tools involved in the investigation of this domain. The focus of this class is truth-conditional aspects of meaning and the compositional interpretation of phrases and sentences. Students will develop skills in semantic analysis and argumentation by focusing on semantic questions that arise in the context of a particular empirical domain: ellipsis. In the course of our exploration of ellipsis, we will also develop explicit hypotheses about a course set of semantic phenomena, including argument structure, quantification, binding and anaphora.
The written work for the course will consist of weekly homework assignments, which will range from technical exercises designed to develop familiarity with the formal tools we will use, to more open-ended and substantial problems in semantic analysis. The assignments will both test your understanding of what we have covered and also serve to introduce new issues that will be discussed in subsequent classes. In some cases, you will not yet have the tools to handle a particular problem; your task here will be to figure out how to extend our system to deal with it. It is important to remember that there is often no 'right' answer; what you should focus on is coming up with at least well-reasoned discussions of the problems you encounter in the exercises, and at best well-argued and clearly explained proposals for how to solve them.
You are strongly encouraged to discuss the problem sets together, but you should write up their assignments on your own, and you should also say who your collaborators were.
Assignments will be handed out on Wednesday and due the following Monday.
Your evaluation will be based on your performance on the assignments and your participation in class.
The text for the class is: Heim, Irene and Angelika Kratzer (1998) Semantics in Generative Grammar, Blackwell: Malden, Mass. The text should be available at Norris. The classroom discussion will presuppose familiarity with the text, so it will be important to do the reading in advance. At the same time, some of what we do in class will modify or go beyond the framework described in the book.
In addition to the text, I will post electronic versions of supplementary readings below as they are assigned.