LX 433/733 Intermediate Pragmatics: Meaning in Context

Course Description

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.

Download the syllabus here.


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.


  • Here is the schedule for your final presentations:
    M 12/5: Hollis B., Natalie G., Kazuki I., Kristine P., Frania N., Lindsay M., Abby P.
    M 12/12: Whitney D., Erin J., Wayne Y., Naz D., Jimmy S., Clara X., Terence C.


AssignmentDue Date
Reading Response 1: Partee 1989 M 9/19 @ beginning of class
Homework 1 M 9/26 @ beginning of class
Reading Response 2: Geurts 2010, Chap. 2 M 10/3 @ beginning of class
Homework 2 M 10/17 @ beginning of class
(Homework 2 Answer Key)
Reading Response 3: Karttunen 1973 M 10/31 @ beginning of class
Reading Response 4: Stalnaker 1974 M 11/7 @ beginning of class
One-page topic proposal for your final paper due M 11/14 @ beginning of class
Reading Response 5: Searle 1975 M 11/21 @ beginning of class


Group Presentations

Class Info

  • Fall 2016
  • M 4-7, CAS 223

Instructor Info

  • Peter Alrenga
  • 617.353.6221
  • 621 Commonwealth Ave #110
  • OH: Tu 3:30-5 / F 12:30-2
      (and by appt)