Linguistics 205
Fall 2001
Northwestern University

Instructor: Prof. Chris Kennedy
Office: Linguistics Department, Room 12 (2016 Sheridan Rd.)
Phone: 491-8054

TA: Erin McMahon
Office: 226 Swift (Semantics Lab)

Solutions to Assignment 3 can be found here.

Solutions to the practice translations into predicate logic can be found here.

Course description

People use sentences to mean things: to convey information about themselves and about states of affairs in the world. This class provides an introduction to the study of how meaning is encoded and expressed in language. We will examine basic concepts in word and sentence meaning (lexical and compositional semantics) and the way sentences are used and interpreted in context (pragmatics). Topics will include: implicature, presupposition, truth conditions and entailment, quantification, sense and reference, word meaning and speech acts.

Course requirements

Readings; short weekly assignments (20%); two quizzes (20%); final exam (40%).

The final exam for this class is Thursday, December 13 at 9.00 am.


The textbook for the class is Levinson, S. 1983, Pragmatics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, which is available at Norris Bookstore. Parts of this book are somewhat difficult, so I recommend reading the chapters both before and after the corresponding lectures. The other readings are collected in a course reader, which is available at Copy Cat (corner of Sherman and Emerson in Evanston).

Experimental Requirement

This course has an experimental requirement. Students may fulfill this requirement by either participating in two experiments of one hour each, or by attending two lectures of one hour each. The experiments will be part of ongoing research in the department and will illustrate features of language structure and use that are relevant to topics covered in the core linguistics curriculum. The lectures will be part of the regular speaker series organized by the Language . That is: A goes to A-, A- goes to B+, B+ goes to B, B goes to B- etc.

Go here for information about the Language and Cognition lecture series, which can be used to satisfy the experimental requirement.


Week 1: Theoretical and methodological preliminaries

Week 2: Implicature

Week 3: Some formal tools

Week 4: Presupposition


Week 5: Truth conditional meaning

Week 6: More formal tools

Week 7: Reference


Weeks 8-9: Word meaning

Week 10: Speech Acts


Reading List

Bach, E., 1989: Informal Lectures on Formal Semantics, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, ch.~1.

Chierchia, G. and S.~McConnell-Ginet, 1990: Meaning and Grammar, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, chapters 1 and 2.

Fillmore, C., 1970: The Grammar of hitting and breaking, in Jacobs, R. and P. Rosenbaum (eds.), Readings in English Transformational Grammar, Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C.

Levinson, S. 1983, Pragmatics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Pullum, G.K., 1991: The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, in The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Russell, B., 1905: On Denoting, Mind {\bf 14}, 479-493.

de Swart, H., 1998: Introduction to Natural Language Semantics, CSLI Publications, Stanford, CA, chapters 3 and 4.

Vendler, Z., 1967: Verbs and Times, in Linguistics in Philosophy, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.