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Module descriptions

7AAN2092 Theory of Meaning


Credit value: 20
Module tutor: Dr Wilfried Meyer-Viol


  • Formative assessment: one x 3,000-word essay, due by end of semester or as otherwise instructed
  • Summative assessment: one x two-hour end of year examination

Teaching pattern: one one-hour weekly lecture and one one-hour weekly seminar over ten weeks. 
Pre-requisites: none
Sample syllabus: Please see the Past syllabi section below for an indication of the syllabus for this module.

Additional information:

  • Core module for students in the MA Language & Cognition programme
  • Available as an option for students in the other MA programmes, although students should take note that the approach will be a technical one, more in the realm of formal linguistics than philosophy as such: students will need competence in symbolic logic
  • Students who do opt to take this module would do well to take 7AAN2091 Theory of Grammar in the first semester too.
  • The lectures/seminars will be shared with students taking 6AANB033 Formal Semantics, although in other respects they will be subject to different requirements.

This module will look at the central philosophical questions that formal semantic methods raise in the interpretation of natural language expressions.

We will examine the meta-theory of formal semantics, the relationship between proof theoretic and model-theoretic approaches to semantics, the typed lambda-calculus, compositionality in the syntax/semantics interface, and the application of generalized quantifier theory to the analysis of noun phrases in natural language.

Further information

Module aims

The course will provide an overview of theories of formal semantics, focussing on the application of proof theory and model theory to the representation of meaning in natural language. Students will receive essential background in the methods and theoretical perspectives that provide the basis for contemporary linguistic semantics.

Learning outcomes
  • After successfully completing the course a student will have a clear understanding of the theory of formal semantics.
  • The student will understand the relationship between syntax and semantics at the level of sentences and their constituents.
  • The student will have mastered the application of proof and model theoretic techniques to the construction of a semantic theory for the sentences of a natural language.
  • The student will understand the central philosophical questions that formal semantic methods raise in the explanation of the processes through which speakers assign interpretations to the expressions of their language. 
Past syllabi

7AAN2092 module syllabus 2012-13 (pdf)
7AAN2092 module syllabus 2013-14 (pdf)
7AAN2092 module syllabus 2015-16 (pdf)

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year.

Core reading
  • L.T.F. Gamut (1991), Logic, Language, and Meaning, Vol 1, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
  • L.T.F. Gamut (1991), Intensional Logic and Logical Grammar, Vol 2, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
  • Bob Carpenter (1998), type-logical semantics, MIT press.
  • Shalom Lappin (ed.) (1996), The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory, Blackwell, Oxford. 
The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.
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