SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Meaning and Interpretation (PG)

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

This module is an introduction to the multifaceted aspects of semantics and pragmatics involved in the knowledge, use and interpretation of meaning natural languages.

The module is intended to convey:

  • a sense of how words, sentences and utterances are associated with meaning, interpretation and language use in the broader context
  • an introduction to the basic concepts and issues in semantics and pragmatics
  • a greater understanding of the ways in which linguistic structures relate to semantic interpretation and to our more general conceptual knowledge about the world

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. Be familiar with basic concepts and issues in the study of Semantics at the lexical, sentential and discourse level.
  2. Appreciate the various (lexical, grammatical and logical) relations which structure the semantic domains relevant to natural languages.
  3. Be able to apply relevant data, tests and argumentation to the investigation of specific semantic phenomena.
  4. Understand how linguistic meaning interacts with other knowledge systems: cognition, general (encyclopaedic) knowledge, contextual and cultural knowledge.


1 hour Lecture and 1 hour Tutorial, per week.

Scope and syllabus

Topics covered include

  • Lexical and phrasal meanings and the logical and semantic systems they may participate in, including quantificational systems, predication, tense, aspect and modality
  • Contextual dimensions of interpretation, including information structure, deixis, pragmatics and discourse domains
  • The cognitive/conceptual models on which natural language semantics is based: event- types, plurality and count/mass distinctions, semantic components and lexical-conceptual structures.

Method of assessment

  • 40% - Data analysis exercise, 2000 words, due Term 1
  • 60% - Essay, 3000 words, due Term 2
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE pag

Suggested reading

  • Saeed, John (2011) Semantics (3rd ed), Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
  • de Swart, Henriëtte (1998) Introduction to Natural Language Semantics, CSLI
  • Hurford, James R, Brendan Heasley and Michael B Smith (2007) Semantics: A coursebook (second edition), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Löbner, Sebastian (2002) Understanding Semantics, Arnold Publishers.
  • Kearns, Kate (2011) Semantics (2nd ed), Palgrave Macmillan
  • Portner, Paul (2005) What is meaning? Fundamentals of formal semantics, Blackwell


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules