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

Postgraduate Course: Current Issues in Semantics and Pragmatics (MSc) (LASC11103)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course provides an introduction to formal theories of semantics and pragmatics, with reference to the cognitive plausibility of those theories. This is done by considering current important issues in the subject that have given rise to controversy and debate.
Course description Providing testable and accurate accounts of semantic phenomena require the use of tools from philosophical logic to break out of the circular trap of using a natural (human) language to explain the properties of the same or a different natural language. In this course, basic tools of logic are introduced and explained (predicate logic, the lambda calculus, model theory and natural deduction). Using these tools, classic problems in interpretation are explored such as quantification, reference and modality, before moving on to recent issues surrounding event structure, discourse and context dependence. Finally, we will dig into issues to do with the evolutionary origins of semantic phenomena.

The course is divided into four main sections:
Representation and Interpretation: the nature of meaning; deductive and interpretative semantics; predicate logic; type theory; the lambda calculus.
Reference and Quantification in Natural Languages: Proper names; indexicals; the limitations of traditional quantifiers; generalised quantifiers; plurals and the limitations of GQ theory; semantic approaches to pronominal anaphora; discourse referents and their representation; presupposition and accommodation.
Event Semantics and Context: Argument structure and entailment; event theory, temporal anaphora; tense, aspect and Aktionsart.
An evolutionary perspective on semantic phenomena: what are the evolutionary origins of some semantic 'universals'? How can concepts from semantics improve evolutionary accounts of linguistic structure?

The course is NOT a course in logic but how linguists can use logical tools to explore difficult issues in interpreting the expressions of natural languages.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 40% coursework
60% 3,000 word essay
Feedback Written feedback on coursework. Advice and discussion session on essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. have a grounding in the use of logical tools in the investigation of linguistic semantics and pragmatics
  2. understand how theoretical arguments are constructed in semantic and pragmatic theory
  3. gain a detailed acquaintance with specific current topics in semantics and pragmatics
  4. gain sufficient knowledge of theoretical semantics to identify strengths and weaknesses of different theoretical approaches
Reading List
Cann, R., Kempson, R., & Gregoromichelaki, E. (2009). Semantics : An introduction to meaning in language (Cambridge textbooks in linguistics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordssemantics,pragmatics,logic,model theory,dialogue
Course organiserDr Marieke Schouwstra
Course secretaryMiss Toni Noble
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188
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