Readings

Many of the readings are from the text book: Portner, Paul H. What is Meaning? Fundamentals of Formal Semantics. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. ISBN: 1405109181. (Paperback)

SES # TOPICS READINGS
L1

Overview

Meaning

Grice on Non-natural Meaning

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 1

Optional Reading

The following reading is optional for undergraduates in 24.903 and required for graduate students in 24.933:

Grice, H. P. “Meaning.” The Philosophical Review 66, no. 3 (1957): 377-388.

L2

Concepts of Meaning

Circularity/Holism

Truth-Conditions

 
L3

More on Truth-Conditions

Meta-language vs. Object Language

Semantic Properties of Sentences

Some Obvious Shortcomings of Truth-Conditional Semantics (Slang, Honorifics)

 
L4

Truth-Conditions

Propositional Logic

Truth-Tables

The Connectives

Required Reading

Partee, Barbara H., Alice ter Meulen, and Robert E. Wall. “Statement Logic.” In Mathematical Methods on Linguistics. Boston, MA: Kluwer, 1987, chapter 6, sections 6.1-6.4, pp. 97-112. ISBN: 9027722447.

Optional Reading

Partee, Barbara H., Alice ter Meulen, and Robert E. Wall. “Basic Concepts of Logic and Formal Systems.” In Mathematical Methods on Linguistics. Boston, MA: Kluwer, 1987, chapter 5, sections 6.5 and 6.6. ISBN: 9027722447.

L5

Tautologies, Contradictions

De Morgan’s Laws

The Material Conditional

 
L6

The Material Conditional (cont.), as an analysis of “if”

Initial Plausibility

“Paradoxes”

Pragmatic Inferences

 
L7

Pragmatic Inferences (cont.)

Sentence (Truth-Conditional) Meaning vs. Speaker Meaning

“I’m not hungry”

Grice’s Maxims of Conversation

Quantity Implicatures

Pragmatic Strengthening of “possible” (from Portner’s Book)

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 11

L8

Gricean Quantity Implicatures (cont.)

Reasons to prefer a Pragmatic Approach over an Ambiguity Approach

 
L9

Gricean Quantity Implicatures (cont.)

Applied to Strengthening of “some” and “or” (Truth-Conditionally: Inclusive, Pragmatically Strengthened to Exclusive)

 
R1 Review Session 1  
L10 Gricean Story about “or” again

Required Reading

A refrigerator summary of Grice’s maxims (PDF), and a sample derivation of a quantity implicature (PDF), meant to replace the calculation on pp. 201-202 of Portner’s book.

L11 Supplementing Material Conditional Truth-Conditions for “if” with Pragmatic Inferences  
L12

Problems for the analysis of “if” as Material Conditional + Pragmatic Implicatures

New Topic: Compositionality

Analyzing “Sheila barks”

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 2

L13

Proper names have as their semantic value individuals

Predicates have as their semantic value sets of individuals, or functions from individuals to truth-values

Brief Discussion of Vagueness

Required Reading

Read the article on disjunction by R. E. Jennings in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Read especially carefully the section on “The Myth of Vel and Aut.”

L14

Transitive Predicates (Functions from Individuals to Functions from Individuals to Truth-Values)

Function Application as the Main Semantic Composition Principle

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 3

Optional Reading

Partee, Barbara H., Alice ter Meulen, and Robert E. Wall. Mathematical Methods on Linguistics. Boston, MA: Kluwer, 1987, chapters 1 and 2 (Sets, Relations, Functions). ISBN: 9027722447.

L15

The Lambda-notation for Specifying Functions

Order of Arguments

First Introduction to Relative Clauses

 
L16

Review of Semantic System

Different kinds of Transitivity Alternations, Implicit Arguments

Informal Discussion of Relative Clauses

 
L17

Relative Clauses

Gaps, Variables, Fillers

Predicate Abstraction

Required Reading

Heim, Irene, and Angelika Kratzer. “Relative Clauses, Variables, Variable Binding.” In Semantics in Generative Grammar. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998, pp. 86-105. ISBN: 0631197125.

L18

Example Calculation: “Shelby is smart”

Modifiers

Predicate Modification

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 4

L19

“smart dog” vs. “smart person”

Perhaps, adjectives are not one-place predicates but functions from one-place predicates to one-place predicates

Other Interesting Cases of Adjectives: “alleged murderer”, “canine genius”

 
L20

Perhaps, adjectives are one-place predicates after all, but context-dependent ones

“Pauline is a tall horse”

 
L21

Definite NPs

“The” as a function from one-place predicates to individuals

Partial function only defined for predicates that are true of exactly one individual

Presuppositions

The “King of France”

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 5.1, 5.2

L22 Quantifiers

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 6.1, 6.2

L23

Natural Language Quantifiers

Compared to Predicate Logic Quantifiers

The Meaning of “most”

Negative Polarity Items

 
L24

Negative Polarity Items (cont.)

Licensing by Quantifiers in position of Downward Monotonicity (the Fauconnier-Ladusaw Hypothesis)

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 6.3

L25

Frege vs. Russell on the meaning of “the”

Attributive vs. Referential Uses of Definite Descriptions

Pragmatic analysis of the two uses of Definite Descriptions

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 5.4.4, 5.4.5

L26

Review of the analysis of “the killer of the black cat” (from problem set)

More on Referential vs. Attributive

 
L27

Tense

Semantic Values Relative to a Time of Evaluation

The Past Tense

Existential Quantification or Referential?

Partee’s Example “I didn’t turn off the stove”

Also: “Last month, I went for a hike”

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 8.1

R2 Review Session 2  
L28 More on the Past Tense and whether it is Referential or involves Existential Quantification (Contextually Restricted)  
L29

Aspectual Classes: States, Activities, Achievements, Accomplishments

Instants vs. Intervals

Accomplishments are only true of Intervals

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 8.2.1

L30

“The World of Sherlock Holmes”

Shifting the World of Evaluation

 
L31 Modals

Required Reading

Portner, Ch. 8.3

R3 Review Session 3  
L32

Conditionals again

The Strict Implication Analysis

 
L33

Conditionals again (cont.)

Stalnaker’s Definite Analysis