LING 316 - Aspects of Meaning
Section: 001
Term: FA 2007
Subject: Linguistics (LING)
Department: LSA Linguistics
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
LING 111 or 210.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

What this course is about:

Aspects of Meaning introduces students to a compositional approach to the representation of linguistic meaning. In order to encode and decode the meaning of any linguistic expression, humans combine basic linguistic units (e.g., words or lexical items) into larger units (corresponding to phrases and propositions) that allow them to represent complex aspects of reality and thought through human language.

More specifically, the course focuses on the subtle, underlying interaction between the structure of linguistic expressions and the construction of meaning (semantics). To illustrate briefly one of many effects of this interaction, consider the sentence “every student went to a party”, which in different contexts (but not necessarily for all speakers) can be ambiguous between ‘all the students went to the same party’ and ‘each student picked a different party to go to’. What yields this sort of ambiguity? Although we will use these and other kinds of empirical facts about English, we will focus on certain aspects of human cognition that are responsible for the subtle interaction between form and meaning in human language in general. The course adopts a simple but precise and powerful approach to meaning, focusing on the conditions under which complex linguistic expressions are true or not true.

The course starts with a general overview of two different perspectives on meaning. It moves then to an introduction to various sub-areas that are relevant for the representation of different aspects of meaning in human language: propositional and predicate logic, set theory, (generalized) quantifier theory, scope, entailment relations, lexical semantics, event semantics and pragmatics/context. The students are exposed to the basics of these different domains, and also how to analyze and explain different properties of meaning in human language in a clear and precise way. We should also discuss some of the connection between knowledge of meaning and language acquisition.

Prerequisite: one course out of LING 200, 210, 212 or 315; or permission of instructor.

Coursebook (Required): Kearns, K. 2000. Semantics. New York: St. Martin’s Press/Palgrave. ISBN 0-312-23183-0 paperback.

LING 316 - Aspects of Meaning
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
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