Type of course: Basisseminar

Semester: Summer 2020


Content summary

This course offers a basic introduction to pragmatics. We will be concerned with aspects of meaning that go beyond truth-conditional content and are related to how language is used in context, including conversational implicatures (inferences that arise through reasoning about the speaker’s adherence to conversational maxims like ”Be as informative as you can”) and presuppositions (notions that a speaker or an utterance present as taken for granted). Phenomena like these will lead us to consider the view that meaning in conversation is a product of the lexical meaning of words, the syntax/semantics of the linguistic constructions employed, and how these interact with the context of use and speakers'/hearers' assumptions.

The course is geared towards students who want to acquire core concepts in pragmatics needed to pursue their studies in linguistics and related disciplines (such as psychology, information science, computational linguistics, cognitive science, philosophy, literature, etc.).


The goal of this course is to introduce students to the practice of doing formal semantics of natural languages. The class is intended to help students learn the required skills to do semantic analysis. The semantic system that we will develop has two central tenets. First, following the long tradition initiated by logicians like Frege, Tarksi, Carnap and Montague, it aims at developing a truth-conditional semantic system, one where the meanings of a sentence is determined by stating the conditions under which it is true in the world. Second, the semantic system is compositional, i.e. it determines a systematic procedure that allows us to obtain the meaning of each sentence from the meaning of its parts. In the first half of the course we will learn standard formal tools which we will then apply and develop during the second half to a analyze a range of empirical phenomena, including adjectival modification, quantifiers and (in)definites, pronouns, attitude verbs, etc. This course has a heavy hands-on component, including in-class exercises as well as homework assignments.

Das Ziel dieses Kurses ist es, die Studierenden in die Praxis der formalen Semantik natürlicher Sprachen einzuführen. Der Kurs soll den Studierenden helfen, die erforderlichen Fähigkeiten zur Durchführung semantischer Analysen zu erlernen. Das semantische System, das wir entwickeln werden, hat zwei zentrale Grundsätze. Erstens, der langen Tradition folgend, die von Logikern wie Frege, Tarksi, Carnap und Montague initiiert wurde, zielt es darauf ab, ein wahrheitsbedingtes semantisches System zu entwickeln, in dem die Bedeutungen eines Satzes durch die Angabe der Bedingungen bestimmt werden, unter denen er in der Welt wahr ist. Zweitens ist das semantische System kompositorisch, d. h. es bestimmt ein systematisches Verfahren, das es uns erlaubt, die Bedeutung jedes Satzes aus der Bedeutung seiner Teile zu gewinnen. In der ersten Hälfte des Kurses lernen wir standardisierte formale Werkzeuge kennen, die wir dann in der zweiten Hälfte anwenden und weiterentwickeln, um eine Reihe empirischer Phänomene zu analysieren, einschließlich der adjektivischen Modifikation, Quantifikatoren und (Un-)Definite, Pronomen, Einstellungsverben usw. Dieser Kurs hat eine starke praktische Komponente, einschließlich Übungen in der Klasse und Hausaufgaben.


In linguistic communication, modal expressions (mightmust, can, should) allows us to talk about events and objects that are possible or necessary, instead of being limited to describing just those things that are present in the here and now.  This class is an introduction to the semantic analysis of modality, as it appears in a variety of expressions, including modal auxiliary verbs like might and must, verbs that express attitudes or beliefs (think, believe, wish), and conditional statements.

In der sprachlichen Kommunikation erlauben uns die modalen Ausdrücke (z.B. modale Hilfsverben wie können, müssen, sollen), über Ereignisse und Objekte zu sprechen, die möglich oder notwendig sind, anstatt darauf beschränkt zu sein, nur das zu beschreiben, das im Hier und Jetzt manifestiert ist. Dieses Seminar ist eine Einführung in die semantische Analyse der Modalität, wie sie in einer Vielzahl von Ausdrücken vorkommt, einschließlich von modalen Hilfsverben, von Verben, die Einstellungen oder Glauben ausdrücken (denken, glauben, wünschen), und auch von konditionalen Aussagen.


dialogue Matisse

Content summary

Building on the phenomena and theories studied in the Introduction to Pragmatics and Semantics lecture, this course will provide further elaboration of the issues arising in the modelling of language use during interaction.  Through engagement with the course materials, students will gain an appreciation of the analysis of online, observable behaviours for building models of the accomplishment and maintenance of social conceptual schemata and action coordination. You will learn how to develop methods to approach and analyse spoken language genres and you will develop your powers of observation, your attention to detail, and your analytical skills. 

We will look at how linguistic meaning, not only relates to the world around us, but also is adapted, negotiated, and coordinated among people in conversation. We will discuss basic concepts involved in situated language processing: perceptual judgements, action, interaction, situated dialogue, grounding, and embodiment. We will then investigate social linguistic phenomena that are so familiar they usually escape our notice, for example, asking for clarifications, agreements/disagreements, corrections, and shared utterances. We will see that these phenomena are highly structured, intricately designed, and extremely significant in our everyday lives and the organization of the social world. We will study the fine-grained structure of such talk-in-interaction and the wider conversational practices people use to accomplish social actions in everyday and institutional settings. Starting with dialogue phenomena, we will provide analyses within models that link syntax, lexical semantics, semantic ontology, pragmatics, and conversational interaction patterns. The psychological and philosophical consequences of this approach for language acquisition, evolution, and artificial intelligence will also be discussed.