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Introduction to Semantics

By Shizhe Huang


This course is an introduction to Semantics, the study of meaning in human language. We will explore semantic issues that arise from the lexicon, the sentences, and the discourse. Along the way, we will investigate not only the semantic structure of natural language but also pragmatic factors that affect our interpretation of language use. Much emphasis is put on developing skills in observing and analyzing semantic patterns, making generalizations, and forming sound arguments. Students will learn the basic semantic theories, especially some formalism, to explain the semantic structure of language. This is a participation intensive course. No prerequisites.\ud To help you decide if this is the right course for you, let me tell you what we will NOT do in this course:\ud --This is NOT a course on the etymology of words.\ud --We will not spend time on social/cultural aspects of meaning even though that would be a great focus in a different course. (Our Tri-Co department has some great sociolinguistic courses at Swarthmore. You’re welcome to explore them.)\ud You must understand from the very outset that this is a course that stresses the foundation of Formal Semantics. I am by no means saying that Formal Semantics is the only way to understand meaning; far from it. But it has proven to be a very insightful way of uncovering some deep underlying patterns of meaning. Thus it will be our focus. I hope\ud that you will come to understand what I mean by the end of the course. To benefit from this course, you should set up your linguistic antenna, if you don’t have the habit yet, throughout the semester, so as to collect interesting expressions that are used by you or around you every day. Your observations will help you understand the topics covered in class better, and also allow you to explore new topics for the final project. You have to be willing to spend a lot of time THINKING about semantic issues in ways that are unfamiliar to you (particularly in ways that involve formalism) and APPLYING the formalism in the assignments you will be required to do

Year: 2015
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