Introduction to Compositional Semantics
Wolfgang Sternefeld & Thomas Ede Zimmermann
Language & Logic
Week One - 9.00-10.30 - Level: F
The course is based on the instructors’ recent textbook ("Introduction to Semantics. An Essential Guide to the Composition of Meaning". Mouton De Gruyter. Berlin 2013). Requiring no special background knowledge, it starts with observations about the role of structure in the analysis of the meanings of phrases and clauses, zooming in on the question how we can understand sentences we never heard before. We then go on to make participants acquainted with the modern, functionalist characterization of linguistic meaning in terms of reference (extension) and information(intension), applying technical tools from formal logic to the analysis of the meaning of complex linguistic expressions as being composed by the meanings of their parts. In particular, we will specialize on the analysis of quantifying expressions as in sentences like "most students sent five letters to exactly one professor". Finally we will discuss the notion of meaning in the settings of possible world semantics. The course will not get entangled in such distracting technicalities as indirect interpretation, predicate logic, or lambda abstraction but rather constructs meanings from basic tools of set theory by using a primitive syntax and simple semantic operations like set formation, functional application, and intersection of sets.