SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics

Issues in Semantics (Masters)

Module Code:
Taught in:
Term 2

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This is an advanced module on Semantics. The primary aim is to build the student’s knowledge on some issues discussed in Formal Semantics by looking and understanding the tools used in Discourse Representation Theory (DRT).

We begin by introducing the logical formalisms used in Formal semantics and then move to some more advanced topics such as Noun phrase interpretation, Anaphora, Plurals, Negation and other connectives, Tense and Aspect.

On successful completion of the module you will:
  • have developed some understanding of the role of logic and discourse representation as a tool in describing and analysing natural language semantics
  • have been introduced to, and reflected upon, a number of key topics in semantics
  • have developed critical reading skills and ability to initiate own research


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week in a lecture.

Scope and syllabus

One or more topics of current interest will be discussed in depth. Examples of such topics are quantifier ambiguity, theories of reference, problems concerning pronouns, problems of anaphora, the relation between semantics and pragmatics, verbs of propositional attitudes.

Method of assessment

Practical questions or data set analysis of 1500 words to be submitted on Monday after the reading week (40%); an essay of 2500 words to be submitted on day 1, term 3 (60%).

Suggested reading

Core Reading
  • Hans, Kamp and Uwe Reyle (1993) From Discourse to Logic: Introduction to Model Theoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Formal Theory and Discourse Representation Theory, Springer
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

  • Paul Portner, 2005. What is meaning? Fundamentals of formal semantics, Blackwell
  • Henriette de Swart, 1998. Introduction to Natural Language Semantics, CSLI.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules