Formal Semantics

Barbara H. Partee, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Visiting Professor, RGGU, Feb-May 2004

Thursdays, 12 Feb – 6 May (Lecture 2:00-3:30pm, Seminar 3:50-5pm, Room 212)

Объявление по-русски


phone: (095) 757-0108



**Calendar of Semantics Seminars in Moscow 2004  (tell me about others and I will update the list)

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.

III. Structure of Course and Requirements: Every week there will be one lecture and one seminar. There will be homework assignments approximately every two weeks. The seminars will be an opportunity to ask questions, to discuss examples, to get help with homework assignments, and to discuss the results of past homework assignments and readings.

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. Not more than three assignments late; 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 four assignments late; 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)   "Linked" handouts available for download in PDF format.

Lecture 1. Feb.12 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: R. Larson (1995) Semantics. Chapter 12 in L. Gleitman and M.Liberman, eds. An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Vol I: Language. (D. Osherson, general editor), pp 361-380.

Seminar [same day, after lecture; not listed below.]

Link to list of Keywords Lectures 1,2,3

Lecture 2. Feb. 19. 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 4.

Lecture 3. Feb. 26. 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.

Lecture 4. March 4. Formal semantics and the lexicon. Meaning postulates and the lexicon. Meaning postulates as a formalization of the content of semantic components of lexical meaning. Meaning postulates and the integration of formal semantics and Moscow school lexical semantics. Mel’chuk, Apresjan, and Moscow school lexical semantics. Borschev and Partee on the potential use of meaning postulates to combine the advantages of the explicitness of formal semantics with the "natural" metalanguage of Moscow school lexical semantics. Natural language metaphysics (Bach) and naivnaja kartina mira (Apresjan). Complete vs. partial reducibility of lexical meaning. Some properties of adjective meanings. Reading: (part of) Partee (1995) Lexical semantics and compositionality. Chapter 11 in L. Gleitman and M.Liberman, eds. An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Vol I: Language. (D. Osherson, general editor), pp. 311-360. Homework #2: Russian adjectives. Due March 25.    Optional reading: Partee, Barbara H. in press. Privative adjectives: subsective plus coercion. To appear in Presuppositions and Discourse, eds. R. Bäuerle, U. Reyle and T. E. Zimmermann. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Adjective Homework Results 2003        Adjective Homework Results 2004   (other 'results' handouts exist only in xeroxed hard copy.)

Link to Keywords Lectures 4 and 5.

Lecture 5. March 11. Noun phrases and generalized quantifiers. Weak and strong determiners and existential sentences.  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.

No class March 18. 

Lecture 6. March 25. Noun phrase interpretation and type-shifting principles. 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, GRASS 8, Foris, Dordrecht, 115-143. Homework #3: Quantification and properties of Russian determiners. Due April 8.

Lecture 7. April 1. Semantics and pragmatics. Presuppositions, conversational implicatures, conventional implicatures. Illustrations involving negation and definite descriptions, inclusive and exclusive or, restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses. Readings: (1) Paducheva, Elena (1985), Vyskazyvanie i ego sootnesennost’ s dejstvitel’nost’ju. (Referencial’nye aspekty semantiki mestoimenij.) Chapter III: Ponjatie presumcii. (pp 48-78) (2) Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet (1990), Meaning and Grammar: An Introduction to Semantics. Chapter 4: Speaking, Meaning, and Doing, Section 4.5: Conversational Implicatures (pp. 187 – 203)

Link to Keywords Lectures 6, 7, 8.

Lecture 8. April 8. Negation and Negative Polarity Items. Also: Appendix 3: Contexts for NPIs. "Downward monotone" functions and the distribution of "negative polarity" items (any, ever, at all; Russian vovse). Beginning discussion of proposals about the distribution of Russian ni-, -libo, and -nibud' words. Reading: (1) (review from Lecture 1): R. Larson (1995) Semantics. Chapter 12 in L. Gleitman and M.Liberman, eds. An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Vol I: Language. (D. Osherson, general editor), pp 361-380. (2) Pereltsvaig, Asya. 2000. Monotonicity-based vs. veridicality-based approaches to negative polarity: evidence from Russian. In FASL 8: The Philadelphia Meeting 1999, 328-346. (3) Selections from Tatevosov, Sergej G. 2002. Semantika sostavljajushchix imennoj gruppy: kvantornye slova. Moscow: IMLI RAN. (4) pp. 108-111 from Paducheva, E.V. 1974. O semantike sintaksisa: materialy k transformacionnoj grammatike russkogo jazyka. Moscow: Nauka. (5) pp. 216-210 from Paducheva, E.V. 1985. Vyskazyvanie i ego sootnesennost' s dejstvitel'nost'ju. Moscow: Nauka. Homework #4: Properties of Russian determiners and negative polarity items. Due April 22.

Lecture 9. April 15. Semantic Typology of Indefinites. 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. The role of words like English even and Russian i, ni in 'strengthening' negative indefinites.  Readings: Selections from Martin Haspelmath's book Indefinite Pronouns.

Lecture 10. April 22.  Sluicing-Based Indefinites.  A guest presentation by Yakov Testelets and Lisa Bylinina, presenting the talk they gave at FASL 13 (Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics) in the U.S. in February, about the diachronic development of some new phrasal indefinite pronoun expressions in Russian which present challenging puzzles for syntax and semantics, expressions like Bog znaet kto, neponjatno kto, ponjatno kto. There appears to be a diachronic process going on in contemporary Russian resulting in the derivation of new expressions of this sort from "Sluicing" constructions: "Sluicing" is the kind of elliptical construction seen in Ivan ušel, no neizvestno kogda (Ivan  uše-l), and it appears to be the source of new "indefinite pronouns" of the 'specific known' and 'specific unknown' types, as in Ivan ušel neizvestno kogda.  Homework #5: A wide choice of topics. Due May 6.

Lecture 11. April 29. Semantic Typology of Indefinites II.  We will continue discussion of the topics in Lectures 8 -10, considering some of the semantic properties and principles that may help to explain the typological generalizations described by Haspelmath. Readings: (i) Haspelmath, Chapter 5, (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.

Additional handouts related to Lectures 8 -12 and Homework 4:

Classification of Pereltsvaig's list of Russian idiomatic NPIs: Reflecting judgments of colleagues and students, some are frozen idioms, some require clausemate negation, some occur in broad NPI environments, some were judged not to be NPIs at all.

Minimal Unit Idioms, Quantifying Superlatives, and their Contexts: Notes on discussion in class April 22 and more comments received afterwards. Findings: kaplja and kopejka occur in the full range of NPI contexts; they also occur with a positive interpretation 'just a little' in non-specific irrealis contexts. The quantifying superlatives appear to have pretty much the same ranges. Examples collected by students. A few notes on the contributions of the scalar focus particles i and xot'.

Notes on Semantics Homework #4 about NPIs and other Indefinites. Thanks to Diana Forker, Ivan Zakharyaschev, Julia Morozova, Lena Osipenko, Marina Khoruzhenko, Yura Lander, Elena Rudnitskaya, Igor Yanovich, Elena Paducheva, Vladimir Borschev, Yakov Testelets. Notes about licensing by bez 'without', notes about the focus particle xot' and its role, notes about possible prototype-like behavior of some kinds of indefinites and some of their contexts; notes about multiple licensing and scope issues.

Lecture 12. May 6. Semantic Typology and Theories of NPIs and Negative Indefinites.  We will continue discussion of the topics in Lectures 8 -11, expanding the discussion to include open questions about the relation between the distribution of Accusative or Nominative vs. Genitive in Russian under negation ("Genitive of Negation), and possible connections between the Gen Neg construction and NPI phenomena. More on negation and words that occur in only negative or only positive sentences. Does every sentence have a negation? Is every negative sentence the negation of some positive sentence? Readings: (i) Haspelmath, Chapter 8, (ii) Adam Werle (2002) A typology of negative indefinites. CLS 38 Parasession on Negation and Polarity. (iii) Adam Werle (2001) A typology of negative indefinites (longer version), Generals Paper, UMass, Amherst.

*** No class May 13, no class May 20. ***

All late homeworks due May 27 (last class). All grades, zachety, ad hoc certificates to be done on May 27.

Lecture 13. May 27.   Negative indefinites, NPIs, and the Genitive of Negation. A joint presentation with Vladimir Borschev of the work on Genitive of Negation that we presented at the conference “Semantics and Linguistic Theory” (SALT 14) at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, May 14-16. Our SALT 14 handout in PDF format.

Looking ahead to fall 2004 and spring 2005:

Fall 2004: There will be a semantics reading group in Moscow, organized by Lisa Bylinina and others, to study some classic and recent work in semantics together. To find out more, contact Lisa. (I will not be in Moscow in the summer and fall of 2004.)

Spring 2005: I will be in Moscow on a Fulbright lecturing fellowship, teaching one course at MGU and one at RGGU, both on formal semantics, one advanced, and one similar to this 2004 RGGU course, with a different choice of special topic in the last third of the semester. Details to be planned during the fall. Suggestions from prospective participants welcome.

Last updated 06 Jun 2004 by Barbara Partee