Linguistics 4400: Linguistic Meaning

Content: This course is an introduction to a particular approach to studying linguistic meaning, i.e. the meaning of basic and complex expressions in natural languages like English, or Tamil, or Swahili. This approach, with roots in logic, philosophy of language, and linguistics, is now a core area of linguistic theory that investigates what it means to have knowledge about meaning or semantic competence. We will be concentrating only on (some aspects of) English, but the ideas are meant to have cross-linguistic application. We focus on the question of how composite linguistic units are built up systematically from simplex ones. It is this compositional system that allows us to create and interpret novel expressions. We will spend some time analyzing the meaning of simplex words and affixes (such as elephant, snore, every, not, and -ed), and for doing so, we will be drawing on concepts from type theory and symbolic logic. This course will involve learning some amount of mathematical and logical tools, but you will be doing it in the context of figuring out the meaning of a range of expressions, and understanding how we are able to systematically express an astonishing variety of thoughts through the everyday language that we speak.

Course learning goals: By the end of this course, students will understand the fundamental ideas underlying Formal Semantics, a central sub-discipline in Linguistics.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of this course, students will be able to apply type-theoretic ideas to grasp meanings of simple natural language sentences, translate between English and Higher Order Logic languages, interpret sentences relative to models, distinguish between conventional and context-determined meaning, and articulate the role of context in enriching lexically-specified meaning.

Instructor: William Schuler

Meeting time: Monday and Wednesday 12:45am-2:05pm in Baker Systems 184

Prereqs: LING 2000 (201), LING 2000H (201H), or LING 4000 (601).

Web site: The updated syllabus, assignments, slides, etc. will be posted here, so check it regularly.

Course Content:

Wk Due Sunday 11:59PM Lecture: Monday Due Tuesday 11:59PM Lecture: Wednesday
1 (pre-term) (pre-term) 8/23
LN01: overview
2 8/27 videos: lambda calculus 8/28
LN02: simple formal logic
8/30 --- PS1 handout
3 (Labor Day) 9/6
LN03: propositional logic
4 9/10 drills: derivation tree problems 9/11
LN04: predicates and operators
9/12 PS1 due 9/13 --- PS2 handout
LN05: generalized quantifiers
5 9/17 videos: generalized quantifiers 9/18
LN06: other higher-order logic functions
6 9/25
LN07: substances
9/26 PS2 due
videos: first-order logic
9/27 --- PS3 handout
LN08: first-order logic
7 10/1 videos: set theory 10/2
LN09: set theory
8 10/09
LN10: schematized functions
10/10 PS3 due 10/11
9 10/16
review session 1
midterm 1
10 10/23 --- PS4 handout
(no class)
11 10/30
LN11: modifiers
LN12: eventualities
12 11/6 --- PS5 handout
11/7 PS4 due 11/8 --- PS4 Q3 solution
LN13: intensionality
13 11/13
LN14: entailment
14 11/19 PS5 due 11/20 --- PS6 handout
LN15: quantifier scope and raising
(Thanksgiving) (Thanksgiving)
15 11/27
11/28 PS6 due (postponed to 12/1) 11/29
LN16: anaphora
16 12/4
review session 2
midterm 2

Successful course participation involves:

Grading scale: OSU standard scheme
A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D
93%+ 90%+ 87%+ 83%+ 80%+ 77%+ 73%+ 70%+ 67%+ 60%+

Faculty feedback and response time:

Student participation requirements: Consistent engagement is expected. If any problems arise relative to attendance, please contact the instructor as soon as possible. Communication is important. You are encouraged to participate during class, ask questions, work on in-class problems in small groups, and share your experiences relative to the subjects and discussion that day.

Attendance and active participation often impacts your performance in a meaningful way, so it will be beneficial for you to attend this course synchronously as much as possible. The lecture slides will be posted on CarmenCanvas, so if you do miss a lecture, you are expected to view the missed material before the next lecture.

Weather or other short-term closing: Should in-person classes be canceled, we will meet virtually via CarmenZoom during our regularly scheduled time. I will share any updates via email.

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