Pragmatics: Current Topics


Course description

Pragmatics is the study of the ways we enrich utterances, "what we say", into their fuller intended meanings, "what we mean". However complex this enrichment mayb be, it is also systematic and quite pervasive. The goal of this course is to study some of the latest current state of affairs of a variety of pragmatic phenomena, focusing on conversational implicatures and presuppositions. Conversational implicatures are inferences that arise through reasoning about the speaker's adherence to certain background assumptions pertaining some unspoken rules of "cooperative" conversation. Presuppositions, in turn, can be loosely described as information that the speaker takes for granted. (Time permitting, we may also dip a little into other topics such as speech acts, contexts and discourse.) Through the study of these phenomena, we will discover that pragmatics is also a type of meaning in natural language that is amenable to formal analysis. In fact, upon closer inspection, some of these effects suggest that the boundary between semantics and pragmatics is not so obvious after all. (You can find the complete syllabus here.)

Materials Hw Grades

Date Slides/Handouts Homework Readings
10/10 Introduction SEP entry on Pragmatics
17/10 Implications HW #1 Grice (1975)
24/10 Implicatures 1 HW #2 Geurts (2010) on Horn sets
31/10 No class!
07/11 Implicatures 2 HW #3
14/11 Neo-Griceanism HW #4 Horn (2004) on Neo-Griceanism
21/11 Complexity HW #5 Katzir (2007)
28/11 Ignorance No HW! Mendia (2016)
05/12 HW #6
12/12 Free Choice Fox (2007)
18/12 HW #7 Geurts 2010 on FC
09/01 Embedding I Russell 2006
16/01 Embedding II
23/01 HW #8