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Department of Linguistics

Intermediate Semantics

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2


Meaning and Interpretation 152900100

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

This course is intended to provide a basic introduction to formal semantics.

This will be achieved with the usage of a wide range of examples and exercises in the class that will help to provide a basic introduction to the use of logic in the analysis of natural language semantics.

Throughout this course we will examine a range of core topics concerning word and sentence meaning, with the focus being on understanding what the issues are.
On successful completion of the course you will:

  • be familiar with what constitutes the domain of formal semantics
  • have developed some understanding of the role of logic as a tool in describing and
     analysing natural language semantics
  • have been introduced to, and reflected upon, a number of key topics in semantics


A total of 11 weeks teaching, including 2 lectures and 1 tutorial each week.

Scope and syllabus

The course will cover the following theoretical areas: Propositional and predicate logic, the semantics of different types of modifiers and referring expressions, natural language quantification, intentional vs extensional contexts and tense and aspect.

Method of assessment

One essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on the second Monday after reading week, in which the course is taught (50%); one essay of 2,500 words to be submitted day 1 of the term following that in which the course is taught (50%). There will also be weekly un-assessed exercises.

Suggested reading

Core Reading
  • Henriette de Swart, 1998. Introduction to Natural Language Semantics, CSLI.
  • Paul Portner, 2005. What is meaning? Fundamentals of formal semantics, Blackwell
Supplementary Reading
  • Jens Allwood, Lars Andersen and Osten Dahl, 1977. Logic in Linguistics, CUP.
  • Ronnie Cann, 1993. Formal Semantics: an Introduction, CUP.
  • Ronnie Cann, Ruth Kempson, Eleni Gregoromichelaki, 2009. Semantics: An Introduction to Meaning in Language, CUP.
  • Kate Kearns, 2000. Semantics, Macmillan