• Ling-C Introduction to Formal Semantics

    (Veneeta Dayal, Rutgers University)

    This Seminar is available to all students. No background required.  Recommended for students interested in semantics and meaning

    Humans can easily understand sentences they have never heard before by calculating their meaning from the meanings of their more elementary parts. Semantics is about accounting for this capacity, which speakers of all human languages arguably have. Formal semantics is about doing so in the most explicit and precise way. The goal of this seminar is to give a comprehensive introduction into what formal semanticists do. We will explore the basic tools that are used to analyze meaning (compositional interpretation, set theory, functions, predicates, lambda abstraction, among others) and discuss the interface between semantics and syntax. We will see how pieces of meaning are put together to give rise to the meaning or complex expressions of natural language. As we go along, we will present possible semantic treatments of some natural language phenomena, including quantifiers, gradable adjectives, tense and aspect. In sum: You may have never heard what semantics is all about or you may have (wrongly) believed that semantics is about loose reasoning, vague intuitions and imprecise formulations. In both cases, this seminar is for you.
    List of seminars:
    1. Compositionality
    2-3. Basic tools of model-theoretic semantics
    4. Building up the meaning: elementary cases
    5. Semantics and syntax
    6. Quantifiers
    7. Adjectives
    8. Tense and aspect