The study of linguistic meaning comprises two disciplines: semantics, the study of the conventional meanings carried by words and sentences, and pragmatics, the study of how speakers use words and sentences to convey meaning. This course surveys several core issues in pragmatics. We will be particularly concerned this semester with the interaction between pragmatics and semantics, exploring the numerous ways in which the truth-conditional meaning of a sentence interacts with the context in which it is uttered. Our goals will be (i) to determine the extent to which these interactions are regular and well-defined, and (ii) to arrive at a more precise understanding of what constitutes an utterance context, and how various types of utterances may affect it. Along the way, we will also consider the relevance of pragmatic theory to other disciplines, such as cognitive psychology and the law.
There is no textbook for this course. Throughout the semester, we will read several foundational articles from the pragmatics literature, along with excerpted chapters from various pragmatics texbooks. Individual reading assignments will be distributed to students via the course website.