[Home | Course Description | Reference Materials | Syllabus | Related Links | Lab for Linguistics and Computation

LING 130: Foundations of Semantics

Brandeis University
Fall 2005

Time: Tuesday, Friday 1:30-3:00 pm
Location: Volen 106


Professor:James Pustejovsky
258 Volen Center,, (781) 736 2709
Office hours: Tues, Fri. 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Teaching Assistant:Roser Saurí
110 Volen Center,, (781) 736 2745
Office hours: Wed, Thu. 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm


Semantics. (2003) John I. Saeed. Blackwell Publishers; 2nd edition.

Introduction to Natural Language Semantics. (2003) Henriette de Swart. Center for the Study of Language and Information.

Course Description

Linguistic semantics is the study of meaning as conveyed through language. The utterances made by speakers of a language are expressions of intentional and mindful activity. Communication through language is a reflection of our conceptualization of the environment and our attempt to understand reality with an innate logical machinery for reasoning. We begin with placing semantics within the context of linguistics and its relation with philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. We then address what the components of meaning are, and how complex meanings are built up out of meaningful parts (the principle of compositionality). We develop a set of logical languages for describing natural language meaning. We will study propositional and predicate logic as a means of providing formal interpretations for linguistic expressions. We also examine briefly how the lambda-calculus can be exploited to model the predicative behavior of language. We will look at models of word meaning (Generative Lexicon) and the problem of polysemy and compositionality. We then introduce the theory of generalized quantifiers to better understand quantifier scope phenomena. Finally, we look at approaches to modeling discourse, including Speech Act Theory and Discourse Representation Theory.

Reference Materials

Course Reading Library

Late Policy

Late submissions will be charged a 5% late-fee per 24 hour day. They won't be accepted a week after the due date. That police will be strictly adhered.


  • 6 Problem Sets: 50% of the grade.
  • Mid-Term Test: 20%
  • Final Test: 20%
  • Participation in class: 10%





Lecture Notes



Fri 9/02/05

What is Semantics?

Saeed ch. 1, De Swart ch. 1



Tue 9/06/05

What is Semantics?

Saeed 2, De Swart 2. Lecture Slides


F 9/09/05

Different views of Meaning

Lecture Slides



T 9/13/05

Word Meaning

Saeed 3. Lecture Slides



F 9/16/05

Propositional Logic

De Swart 3. Lecture Slides



T 9/20/05

Propositional Logic



F 9/23/05

Entailment and Presupposition

Saeed 4. Lecture Slides



T 9/27/05

Entailment and Presupposition



F 9/30/05

Predication and Quantification

De Swart 4. Lecture Slides


M 10/03/05

Events and Situations

Saeed 5



F 10/07/05

Events and Situations

Tense and Aspect


T 10/11/05

Argument Structure

Saeed 6

F 10/14/05

Argument Structure



T 10/18/05

Mid-Term TEST

F 10/21/05

No classScope and Anaphora

De Swart 5

T 10/25/05

No Class

F 10/28/05
Scope and Anaphora Intro to Lambda Calculus

T 11/01/05
Context and Inference


F 11/04/05
Context and Inference

T 11/08/05
Discourse and Anaphora
De Swart 7 and 8

F 11/11/05
Discourse and Anaphora

T 11/15/05
Intro to Type Theory
Saeed 7 and 8
F 11/18/05
Intro to Type Theory

T 11/22/05
Speech Acts

F 11/25/05

T 11/29/05
Generative Lexicon Theory

F 12/02/05
Generative Lexicon Theory Intro to the Generative Lexicon Theory

T 12/06/05
Worlds and Times
De Swart 9

F 12/09/05
Worlds and Times

T 12/13/05
Final TEST

Extra-credit Problem Set

Related Links

    Computational Semantics