Semantics and Pragmatics 2


This is the second course in the first-year graduate sequence in semantics and pragmatics, designed to introduce students to the core principles and empirical issues addressed by formal 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 analysis of a range of different phenomena, including argument structure, quantification, binding, anaphora and ellipsis.

A copy of the syllabus can be downloaded here.


The written work for the course will consist of weekly assignments. These 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 single correct answer; your goal in writing up the assignments should be to produce 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.

Assignments will be handed out on Thursday and due at the beginning of class the following Tuesday. Late assignments will not be accepted. Some of the problems will be purely formal exercises, and will not require prose write-ups. However, most of the problems will require analysis and argumentation (as well as derivations), and you will be expected to write them up with appropriate exposition, as though they were short papers. Finally, you are expected to do the work on your own.


Your evaluation will be based on your performance on the assignmentsq and on participation in class.


  • Heim, Irene and Angelika Kratzer. 1998. Semantics in Generative Grammar. Blackwell: Malden, Mass.
  • Supplementary readings posted on the website

The text should be available at the Seminary Coop. The classroom discussion will presuppose familiarity with the text, so it will be important to do the reading in advance. At the same time, much of what we do in class will be independent of the book, and some of our assumptions will modify or go beyond the framework described in Heim and Kratzer.

The Plan

The following is a rough week-by-week plan for the course. Note that we may end up diverging from it a bit depending on the progress we make. Supplementary readings can be downloaded here. In some cases, I have assigned only parts of chapters from Heim and Kratzer (HK), but you are of course encouraged to read beyond what I assign.

  • January 4-6
    Formal foundations

  • January 11-13
    The syntax-semantics interface: type theory, function application and the lambda notation

    • HK chs. 2

  • January 18-20
    Syntax-semantics interface continued

    • HK ch. 3

  • January 25-27
    Modification, interpretability, and type-shifting

    • HK ch. 4

  • February 1-3

    • HK ch. 5

  • February 8-10

    • HK ch. 6-7

  • February 15-17
    Quantification cont'd

    • Reading

  • February 24
    Bound variable readings of pronouns

    • HK Ch. 9-10

  • March 1-3

  • March 8
    Intensionality cont'd