Formal and Experimental Semantics

Cogmaster - LC2

Emmanuel Chemla (Institut Jean-Nicod and LSCP) and Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod & NYU)

École Normale Supérieure
, Winter 2009

Instructors:   Emmanuel Chemla
                        Post-doctorant, Institut Jean-Nicod & LSCP  (DEC)

                        Philippe Schlenker
                        Directeur de Recherche, Institut Jean-Nicod (DEC) & NYU

Schedule:      3 hours per week during 7 weeks
                       Monday, 1pm-4pm
                       First Meeting: November 23, 2009

Textbook:     Heim & Kratzer, Semantics in Generative Grammar.

Pre-requisites:    Some experience with elementary logic and/or an introduction to linguistics. In case of doubt, please contact the instructors by e-mail.

Description:     This course will offer an intensive introduction to the formal and experimental methods used in contemporary research on meaning. We characterize knowledge of meaning as knowledge of truth conditions. The goal of semantics is thus to uncover the rules that allow the speakers of a language to know under what conditions any sentence is true; or in other words, to construct a theory of truth for natural language. We will do so for fragments (i.e. simple formal languages) that include: proper names, pronouns and predicates; generalized quantifiers (e.g. someevery, most); definite descriptions (the); and simple temporal and modal expressions. Special attention will be devoted to the division of labor between semantics and pragmatics, and we will offer simplified analyses of presuppositions and implicatures. An unusual feature of this course is that it will include several examples of experimental methods used to investigate the semantic and pragmatic phenomena under consideration.

The course will be given in French, but the course materials will be in English.


-Do the readings and participate actively in class discussions. 

-Homeworks will be assigned on a weekly basis. They may take a variety of forms: formal exercises, empirical investigations, article discussion, etc.

-One short final paper is expected as well.

Semantics and Pragmatics at ENS:   SIGMA (Structures and Interpretations: Grammars, Models and Analyses)

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