MGU: Formal Semantics and Current Issues in Semantics

Barbara H. Partee, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Visiting Professor, MGU, Jan - June 2007

Tuesdays, 13 Feb – 5 June

Lecture 4:55-6:15pm, Seminar 6:30-7:50pm, Room 956 in 1st Humanities Building, MGU

Объявление по-русски

APRIL 28, 2007: Third Annual Workshop: Formal Semantics in Moscow.  Information at the site


phone: (495) 757-0108




I. The languages of the course:

Lectures, handouts, and text mostly in English. Seminar sessions and other discussion in Russian and/or English. Homework may be done in Russian.

II. Reading materials: Handouts (mostly in English) and some xeroxed articles (some in English, some in Russian) will be given to all enrolled students. As much material as possible will be made available for download from the web.

III. Structure of Course and Requirements: Every week there will be one lecture and one seminar. There will be five homework assignments, approximately every two weeks. The seminars will be an opportunity to ask questions, to discuss examples and issues from the lectures, to get help with homework assignments, and to discuss the results of past homework assignments and readings. A kursovaya rabota can take the place of two or three homework assignments.

Requirements: Attendance, assigned reading, and written homework assignments.

Requirements to receive a 5: Very good attendance, at least 80% of lectures and seminars. Written homework assignments completed on time and in a satisfactory manner; no assignments missing.

Requirements to receive a 4: Good attendance, at least 60% of lectures and seminars. Most written homework assignments completed on time and in a satisfactory manner; not more than two assignments missing.

Requirements for zachet:  Same as requirements for a 4.

If more than two assignments are missing, you will not receive a zachet or a grade higher than a 3 unless you do some extra work of a high quality; see me if you wish to negotiate alternative assignments in place of some written homework.

IV. Outline of the course. (Subject to change, and more information will be added as the semester progresses. )   "Linked" handouts available for download in PDF format.  

LINKS TO MANY OF THE READINGS ARE HERE. This file will be updated during the semester. It includes a number of works of general interest for semantics as well as works specifically connected to the lectures. See individual lecture handouts for recommended readings.

The first four lectures are almost the same as the beginning of the course in 2005. Lecture 1 has been updated for 2007; lecture 2 from 2005, which actually took two weeks, is split into two for 2007.  Lecture 3 from 2005 is updated as Lecture 4 for 2007.

Lecture 1. Feb.13 Basic ideas of formal semantics. Compositionality. The relation between semantics and syntax. Example: Syntax and model-theoretic semantics of predicate logic. Homework #0: Anketa. Practice homework: to do together in Seminar. Reading: (1R. Larson (1995) Semantics. Chapter 12 in L. Gleitman and M.Liberman, eds. An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Vol I: Language, pp 361-380. (2) Partee, Barbara H. 1999. "Semantics" in R.A. Wilson and F.C. Keil, eds., The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 739-742. Choose [Handout full-size Word file] or [Handout 2-up PDF file] (identical except 1 vs. 2 pages per printed page.)

"Homework #0": Anketa -- please bring to second lecture or return it to me by e-mail.

Seminar [same day, 18:30-19:50; not listed below except when there will be a special guest lecture in Seminar.]

Link to list of Keywords Lectures 1,2,3  (from RGGU 2005, but they haven't changed!)

Lecture 2. Feb. 20. Lambda abstraction and the semantics of noun phrases.  Ambiguity and logical form. Quantifier scope. Generalized quantifiers (beginning), lexicon and grammar (beginning). Homework #1, Lambda exercises. Due March 6. Choose [Handout full-size Word file] or [Handout 2-up PDF file] .

Lecture 3. Feb. 27. Applications of the lambda calculus to linguistic examples.  Fragment 1. Basic principles of compositional interpretation. Type-driven interpretation. Conjunction and semantic types. Relative clauses. Phrasal negation. Choose [Handout full-size Word file] or [Handout 2-up PDF file] .

Lecture 4. March 6. Noun phrases and generalized quantifiers.  Function-argument structure, syntactic categories, and semantic types. NPs as Generalized Quantifiers, continued.  Weak and strong determiners and existential sentences. Tests for weak determiners in Russian.  Reading: (1) R. Larson (1995) Semantics. (from Lecture 1. Read it again!) (2): Partee, Barbara H., Alice ter Meulen, and Robert E. Wall. 1990. Mathematical Methods in Linguistics. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Chapter 14: Generalized Quantifiers. (3) Keenan, Edward L. 2003. The definiteness effect: semantic or pragmatic? Natural Language Semantics 11:187 -216.  Optional: The classic Barwise and Cooper (1983): 03-Barwise.Cooper-Generalized.Quantifiers.and.Natural.Language.djvu; Partee (1989): Homework #2, Due March 20: See Homework #1 and do 2 or 3 problems you didn't do before. Choose [Handout full-size Word file] or [Handout 2-up PDF file]

The remaining part of the schedule includes some new things that were not included in other years.

Lecture 5 – March 13 Negation 1. Sentential and constituent negation. Syntax, semantics, pragmatics. Negation vs. denial. Presuppositions, scope. Negative and positive polarity items. Reading: (1)Reread R. Larson (1995) Semantics. Chapter 12 in L. Gleitman and M.Liberman, eds. An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Vol I: Language, pp 361-380. [PDF]  (2) Ladusaw, William. 1980. On the notion "affective" in the analysis of negative polarity items. Journal of Linguistic Research 1:1-16. [Reprinted in Portner and Partee (2002), pp. 457-470]. (3) (optional) Borschev, Vladimir et al. 2006. Sentential and constituent negation in Russian BE-sentences revisited. In Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The Princeton Meeting 2005 (FASL 14), eds. James Lavine et al., 50-65. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications. (4) (optional) Partee, Barbara H., and Vladimir Borschev. 2002. Genitive of negation and scope of negation in Russian existential sentences. In Annual Workshop on Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: the Second Ann Arbor Meeting 2001 (FASL 10), ed. Jindrich Toman, 181-200. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications. Choose [Handout full-size Word file] or [Handout 2-up PDF file] .


Lecture 6 – March 20. NPs and type shifting  (2005 RGGU handout here now; will be slightly revised) Noun phrases as referential expressions, predicative expressions, quantificational expressions. The interpretation of NPs in languages (like Russian) without articles. Reading: Barbara H. Partee (1986) "Noun phrase interpretation and type-shifting principles", in J. Groenendijk, D. de Jongh, and M. Stokhof, eds., Studies in Discourse Representation Theory and the Theory of Generalized Quantifiers, Foris, 115-143. Reprinted in Portner and Partee, eds., 2002, 357-381. Reprinted in Partee, Barbara H. 2004. Compositionality in Formal Semantics: Selected Papers by Barbara H. Partee. Blackwell, 203-230. . Homework #3: Quantification and properties of Russian determiners. Due April 3.  Choose [Handout full-size Word file] or [Handout 2-up PDF file] .

MARCH 23, (в пятницу), в 15.00, в зале заседаний ИПИРАН, ул. Вавилова. д. 44 корп. 2, состоится семинар, на котором будет представлен доклад Владимира Борисовича Борщева и Барбары Холл Парти: «Бытийные и локативные предложения -- что их различает? Темо-рематическая структура или диатеза?»  [Handout PDF]

Lecture 7 – March 27 Existential and Locative sentences. Genitive of Negation 1. (Relevant background handout on the semantics of existential sentences, from my course in NZ 2006.) Existential vs. locative sentences: theme-rheme structure or perspectival structure? The role of Location in existential sentences. Semantic "bleaching" of verbs. Subject Gen Neg and Object Gen Neg. A possible type-shifting demotion diathesis pattern. Choose [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF].

MARCH 31, Saturday, at 13:45, Barbara Partee will give a presentation in the семинар "Некоторые применения математических методов в языкознании" под руководством В.А.Успенского и М.Р.Пентуса .  Title: Type Theory and Natural Language: Do We Need Two Basic Types?  [Handout PDF] Photos from the celebration after the lecture, celebrating the occasion of the 100th meeting of that seminar, can be found on two Live Journal pages:  bhp1 (mine) and virgofelix 's (if you're in this class, you'll recognize her.)

Lecture 8 – April 3 Semantic typology of indefinites 1  What can be found in other languages analogous to the Russian ni-, -libo, and -nibud' words and English any? Approaches to the semantic descriptions of such items. Basics of the Kamp-Heim theory of indefinites. Introduction to Haspelmath's "semantic map" approach to the typology of indefinites, and Tatevosov's extensions to include universal quantifier words. Readings: (i) Selections from Martin Haspelmath's book Indefinite Pronouns [go to and choose between a very large pdf file (25+ Mb) and a less high-resolution djvu file], (ii) Selections from Tatevosov 2002  Semantika sostavljajushchix imennoj gruppy: kvantornye slova, (iii) As much as possible of Chapter 2 of Heim, Irene R. 1982, The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite Noun Phrases, UMass. Ph.D. dissertation. [PDF file  (9.5 MB!)] [djvu file (755k) ] (iv) alternative shorter Heim: Heim, Irene.1983. File change semantics and the familiarity theory of definiteness (v) Optional: Farkas, Donka. 2002. Varieties of Indefinites. In Proceedings of SALT 12. Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications; (vi) optional: Kamp, Hans. 1981. A theory of truth and semantic representation. Homework #4: Normal, or substitute a "project" for Homeworks 4 and 5.  Due April 17 (later if "project"). Project possibilities include contributing to Russian Wikipedia on semantics. (Ask me if you have not received a handout about that.) Choose [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF].   UPDATED LINKS TO MANY OF THE READINGS ARE HERE.

APRIL 5-6, 2007: First Moscow Syntactic Structures Student Conference, at RGGU. Information about the workshop at the site .  [Program]. My talk: A Brief History of the Syntax-Semantics Interface in Western Formal Linguistics. [Handout PDF]

Lecture 9 – April 10. Genitive of Negation 2. Scope puzzles, semantic factors in Acc/Gen choice. Genitive of intensionality and genitive of negation: property-type hypothesis. Choose [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF.]

APRIL 13, 2007: Московской студенческой конференции по лингвистике (МСКЛ 2007). Information about the workshop at the site .

Lecture 10 – April 17. The event argument and the semantics of verbal predication. A brief overview, from classical Tense Logic to contemporary formal semantics of Aspect. Readings: see updated links HERE.   Handout: choose [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF].  Plus APRIL 17: Guest lecture in seminar, for linguistics students and logic students. Michael Moortgat, Professor of Computational Linguistics, Utrecht University, coordinator of research group on Computational Linguistics and Logic. He will talk about "continuation semantics" for the kind of categorial grammar systems first investigated by V.N. Grishin in the early '80s. Everyone is welcome -- invite your friends.

Lecture  11 – April 24. Semantic typology of indefinites 2. We will continue discussion of the topics in Lecture 4, considering some of the semantic properties and principles that may help to explain the typological generalizations described by Haspelmath. We'll mainly discuss specific and non-specific indefinites, introducing Choice Functions, Hamblin alternatives, Skolem functions. Russian -to, -nibud', and bare kto series: Igor Yanovich's 2005 analysis. Readings: (i) Haspelmath, Chapter 5, [go to and choose between a very large pdf file (25+ Mb) and a less high-resolution djvu file]; (ii) Kratzer, Angelika, and Shimoyama, Junko. 2002. Indeterminate pronouns: the view from Japanese. In The Proceedings of the Third Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics, ed. Yukio Otsu, 1-25. Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo. (iii) Kratzer 2005, Indefinites and the operators they depend on (iv) Yanovich, Igor, 2006 "Choice-functional series of indefinite pronouns and Hamblin semantics", SALT 15, (v) Optional: Yanovich 2005, Diplomnaja rabota, MGU: Semantika neopredelennyx imennyx grupp. Homework #5: Topics in Indefinites or other "open" topics of your choice. Due May 15.  Handout: choose [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF].  UPDATED LINKS TO MANY OF THE READINGS ARE HERE.

APRIL 28, 2007: Third Annual Workshop: Formal Semantics in Moscow, at MGU.  Information about the workshop at the site

NO CLASS the weeks of May 1 and May 7.

Lecture 12 – May 15: Issues in tense and aspect, telicity and quantification, plus guest lecture Sergej Tatevosov: Непредельность и структура события. Discussion of arguments for the Davidsonian 'event argument', largely from Landman 2000 Events and Plurality. The parallels between the mass-count distinction and the process-event distinction; extending Link's semantics to Eventualities. Readings: Bach (1986) 'The algebra of events', Filip (1999) Aspect, Eventuality Types and Nominal Reference, Partee (1997) 'Vid i interpretacija imennyx grupp', Partee (1999) 'Nominal and temporal semantic structure: aspect and quantification.' [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF]. (Note: the handout given out in class omitted links to readings that are accessible on the web; those links are included in the Word version of the handout here.)

Lecture 13 -- May 22: Aspect and Quantification II. Parts II and III of May 15 handout plus more on theories of the semantics of the progressive, and an opportunity for further discussion of the issues raised in Sergej Tatevosov's guest lecture. More details will be posted soon.  Final homework assignments due May 29. Please show signs of progress by May 22, and let me know your final intentions (zachet or ocenka). [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF].

NO CLASS May 29: Class participants are recommended to attend at least some part of the "Assertion and Negation" conference listed below. Bring me your final assignments there, or e-mail them to me by May 29.

MAY 28-30, 2007: Очередная конференция "Логический анализ языка" под руководством Н.Д.Арутюновой, БЫТЬ ИЛИ НЕ БЫТЬ - ВОТ В ЧЕМ ВОПРОС: АССЕРЦИЯ И НЕГАЦИЯ. Конференция состоится 21, 22, 23 мая 2007 г. Организатор конференции - проблемная группа <Логический анализ языка> при Отделе теоретической лингвистики Института языкознания РАН. Адрес Института: 103 009 Москва. Большой Кисловский пер. 1\12, тел. 290 35 85; тел. отдела 290 03 36. Included in the program: Vladimir Borschev (VINITI RAN), Elena V. Paducheva (VINITI RAN), Barbara H. Partee (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Yakov G. Testelets (RGGU), and Igor Yanovich  (MGU): Problems of Affirmative and Negative Sentences with Null and Non-Null Byt’ (in Russian). PROGRAM

Belated note: I should also have included a notice about the conference DIALOG 2007 May 30-June 4, which had many relevant papers on the program.

Lecture 14 -- June 5 -- Formal semantics and pragmatics. The traditional philosophical definition of syntax-semantics-pragmatics. Grice's conversational implicatures: a classic contribution to pragmatics, and how it helps semantics. At the borderline of semantics and pragmatics: presuppositions. Implicatures within semantics: conventional implicatures. A contemporary formal treatment of conventional implicatures: Potts, Christopher. (Potts to appear). Conventional implicatures, a distinguished class of meanings. In The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces, eds. G. Ramchand and C. Reiss. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . [Handout full-size Word] or [Handout 2-up PDF]

Three supplementary handouts, the first online only; all three are most useful in electronic version with their links active: (1) the latest version of "Links to Readings", HERE. (2) Notes on the Wikipedia project to put more semantics (and more linguistics in general) onto the Russian-language Wikipedia, HERE. (3) Supplement to Lecture 14 Handout: Semantics Resources.

That's the end. Thanks to everyone who participated in the class, officially or unofficially, for making it all so stimulating! I'll be teaching a semantics class at RGGU in Spring 2008 (no details yet), and then probably teaching a semantics class again at MGU in Spring 2009.

Last updated 06 Jun 2007 by Barbara Partee