Semantic Universals and Semantic Typology

Instructor(s): Emmon Bach and Wynn Chao

A central problem in linguistic semantics: which, if any, aspects of meaning are universal and which language-particular? The question subsumes questions about semantic and syntactic typologies and their relationship. We assume that these questions can be approached empirically, as with other parts of linguistic theory and description. Our course will explicate this question by laying out a general framework (model theoretic semantics) and looking at and evaluating a number of proposals about semantic universals and particulars.

The course will take up the following issues and questions:

Two main approaches will be dealt with: model theoretic semantics; conceptual semantics. Are these really competing or complementary? Is one (the first) more relevant to structural semantics, tracking the syntax, the other more suited to dealing with lexical semantics .

What is the relation between semantic interpretation and the syntax? Bottom-up, rule-by-rule, configurational. What is the role of "logical form" under various interpretations?

Lexical and structural semantics: same or different? Different models of the lexicon and the construction of lexical items. Semantics of derivational and inflectional morphology. The verbal domain: the semantics of tense and aspect, and aktionsart. The nominal domain: mass, count, generics, number. Adjectives and adverbs: modifiers or specifiers, measure phrases.

The course is intended as middle-level: we will assume a basic knowledge of syntax and semantics, but we will introduce and review the particulars of model-theoretic and conceptual semantics.

Course ID:

Mon & Thu 1:30-3:15

Classroom: EDUC 220

Areas of Linguistics:
Syntax and Morphology
Semantics, Pragmatics and Discourse