Fall 1999, TuTh 1-2.30
Office: Linguistics Department (2016 Sheridan Rd.), Rm. 19
Office Hours: Tu 4-5; Th 3-4 (or by appointment)
This is a first course in lexical semantics, intended to introduce basic
issues and concepts in the linguistic study of word meaning, as well as
the relation between the semantics of words and other aspects of meaning,
such as truth-conditional (propositional) meaning and context-dependent
(pragmatic) meaning. The course is organized as an overview of the core
semantic properties of three of the primary word categories in natural
languages: verbs, adjectives, and nouns. Topics to be covered include verb
classes, aspect, semantic roles, vagueness, gradability, antonymy, categorization,
sense and reference, and categorization. Primary emphasis will be placed
on elucidating the fundamental empirical issues that must be accounted
for, but we will also explore different theoretical approaches to these
issues, with an eye towards identifying the role of word meaning in the
overall system of meaning in natural language.
For undergraduates, Linguistics B05 or permission of the instructor; for
graduate students, the equivalent of Linguistics B05 or permission of the
Weekly problem sets (70%), take-home final (20%), classroom participation
The weekly problem sets will be due on Tuesdays at the beginning of class,
starting Sept. 28. Late homeworks will not be accepted!
The final exam will be handed out on Tuesday, November 23 and will be due
in my office by noon on Wednesday, Dec. 8. (Early submissions are also
The reading load for this class will be fairly heavy, consisting of both
primary and secondary literature in lexical semantics. All readings
should be completed prior to the class for which they are assigned. Readings
will come from two sources:
Saeed, John. 1997. Semantics. Blackwell, Cambridge. (Available at
Great Expectations Bookstore, 911 Foster St., Evanston.)
A course reader. (Available at Quartet Copies, 818 Clark St., Evanston.)
Part 1: Introduction
1.1 Types of meaning in natural language (Saeed ch. 1)
1.2 Entailment, implicature, presupposition (Saeed ch. 4, Grice 1968
Part 2: Verbs
2.1 Characterizing word meaning: verb classes (Saeed ch. 3, Levin 1993
2.2 Classification by entailments: implicative verbs (Karttunen 1971)
2.3 Classification by event structure: aspect (Saeed ch. 5, Vendler
1967a, Dowty 1977 section 2.2)
2.4 Classification by participants: semantic roles (Saeed ch. 6, Fillmore
Part 3: Adjectives
3.1 Gradability and vagueness (Sapir 1944 )
3.2 Scales, standards and the A/V interface (Kennedy and McNally 1999
3.3 Antonymy (Hale 1971, Lehrer 1985 )
Part 4: Nouns
4.1 Sense and reference (Saeed ch. 2, Frege 1948 (1892))
4.2 The meaning of 'meaning' (Putnam 1975)
4.3 What's in a noun? (Wierzbicka 1988)
4.4 Categories, kinds, and common nouns (Carlson 1991)
Part 5: Conclusion
5.1 Beyond the basic categories (Vendler 1967b , Saeed ch. 9 (opt.))
5.2 Beyond word meaning
Carlson, G. 1991. Natural Kinds and Common Nouns. In von Stechow, A. &
D. Wunderlich (eds.) Semantik: Ein internationales Handbuch der zeitgenössischen
Forschung. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Dowty, D. 1977. Word Meaning and Montague Grammar. Dordrecht:
Fillmore, C. 1970. The Grammar of hitting and breaking.
In Jacobs, R. and P. Rosenbaum (eds.), Readings in English Transformational
Grammar. Washington: Georgetown University Press.
Frege, G. 1948 (1892). Sense and Reference. The Philosophical Review
Grice, H.P. 1968. Logic and Conversation. In Studies in the Way of
Words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Hale, K. 1971. A Note on a Walbiri Tradition of Antonymy. In Steinberg,
D. and L. Jakobovits (eds.) Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Karttunen, L. 1971. Implicative Verbs. Language 47.2:340-358.
Kennedy, C. and L. McNally. 1999. Deriving the Scalar Structure of Deverbal
Adjectives. To appear in Catalan Working Papers in Linguistics.
Lehrer, A. 1985. Markedness and Antonymy. Journal of Linguistics
Levin, B. 1993. English Verb Classes and Alternations. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Putnam, H. 1975. The Meaning of Meaning. In Gunderson, K. (ed.), Language,
Mind and Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Sapir, E. 1944. Grading: A Study in Semantics. Philosophy of Science
Vendler, Z. 1967a. Verbs and Times. In Linguistics in Philosophy.
Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Vendler, Z. 1967b. Each and every, any and all. In Linguistics in
Philosophy. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press.
Wierzbicka, A. 1988. What's in a Noun? Chapter 9 of The Semantics
of Grammar. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.