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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Postgraduate Course: Formal Semantics for Philosophers MSc (PHIL11118)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryA course on how to do semantics, i.e. a theory of meaning, for natural languages using various mathematical tools.

Formal Semantics for Philosophers MSc is also shared with the undergraduate version Formal Semantics for Philosophers (PHIL10137).

For courses co-taught with undergraduate students and with no remaining undergraduate spaces left, a maximum of 8 MSc students can join the course. Priority will be given to MSc students who wish to take the course for credit on a first come first served basis after matriculation.
Course description Formal semantics is a subfield of linguistics and philosophy of language that aims at providing a formal analysis of meaning. More specifically a systematic method for recursively and compositionally deriving the truth conditions of sentences of natural language. This systematic method relies on the use of a number of mathematical and logical tools and this course is intended as an introduction to this general project. The two primary aims of the course are to provide a general understanding of the mathematical and logical tools standardly used in formal semantics and of the complex issues that any formal analysis of natural language inevitably faces. Formal semantics is now an essential part of the philosophy of language and often has wide-reaching impact in other philosophical areas such as (formal) epistemology, logic, philosophy of mind, metaethics etc.

Since a number of sophisticated mathematical and logical tools are used in formal semantics, this course is intended as an introduction to these tools as well as the underlying methodology. We will focus on three general, but complex, issues, namely:
I. Restricted/Generalized Quantifiers (Quantificational Determiner Phrases).
II. Free vs. Bound Variables (Pronouns).
III. Index-Shifting (Intensional Operators).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. understand various formal tools used in formal semantics. (basic generative syntax, type driven interpretations, lambda abstraction, variable assignments, binding, etc.)
  2. compositionally derive the truth conditions of simple natural language sentences.
  3. understand important methodological principles. (compositionality, recursion, syntax-semantic correspondence.)
  4. understand (a few) complex issues widely discussed in philosophy of language and semantics. (the semantics of: quantificational determiner phrases, pronouns, modals, attitude verbs, and conditionals)
Reading List
von Fintel, Kai and Heim, Irene 2007. ''Intensional Semantics''. Unpublished ms.
Glanzberg, Michael 2006. ''Quantifiers''. In Lepore, Ernest and Smith, Barry C. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook
of Philosophy of Language, chap. 31. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 794-822.
Heim, Irene and Kratzer, Angelika 1998. ''Semantics in Generative Grammar''. Blackwell Publishing.
Kaplan, David 1989. ''Demonstratives''. In Almog, Joseph, Perry, John and Wettstein, Howard (eds.) Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press.
Additional Information
Course URL Please see Learn page
Graduate Attributes and Skills Writing skills, interpreting texts, evaluating arguments and theories
Additional Class Delivery Information Taught by Dr Anders Schoubye
KeywordsMeaning,Semantics,Logic,Compositionality,Truth Conditions.
Course organiserDr Anders Schoubye
Course secretaryMs Becky Verdon
Tel: (0131 6)51 5002
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