LX 331/631 Semantics & Pragmatics:
Introduction to Linguistic Meaning

Course Description

People use sentences to convey information about themselves and about the world in which we live. This course provides an introduction to the study of how meaning is encoded and expressed in natural language. The study of linguistic meaning comprises two disciplines: semantics, the study of the literal meaning carried by words and sentences, and pragmatics, the study of how speakers use words and sentences to convey meaning.

We will examine some of the basic concepts, findings, and theoretical approaches that underlie research in semantics and pragmatics. Along the way, we will also acquaint ourselves with some of the formal tools that are employed in the study of meaning. Throughout, our focus will be on an empirical understanding of meaning in natural language (i.e., this is not a logic class). In particular, we will investigate various aspects of the semantic structure of English while constructing an explicit theory of linguistic meaning.

Download the syllabus here.

Download the revised schedule for weeks 8-11 here.

Download the revised schedule for weeks 12-15 here.


The required textbook for this course (available at the BU Bookstore) is:

Kearns, Kate. 2011. Semantics, 2nd edition. Palgrave Macmillan.

Several supplementary readings will also be assigned; these will be made available to you via the course website.


  • Here is the information that I distributed in class about your final exam: Final Exam Information.
  • In the Handouts section, I have posted a summary of the syntax and semantics of restricted quantifiers.
  • LX631 students: The paper and prompt for your third reading response are available below. The reading response will be due at 10pm, on Wed., May 10 (the day after our final exam)--note that this is a postponement from the original due date.


AssignmentDue DateAnswer Key
Homework 1 Th 2/2 @ beginning of class HW1 Key
Homework 2 F 2/10 @ 5pm (by email or at my office) HW2 Key
Homework 3 F 2/17 @ 5pm (by email or at my office) HW3 Key
LX631 Reading Response #1 (Horn 1992) Tu 2/28 @ beginning of class
Exam #1 Answer Key
Homework 4 F 3/3 @ 5pm (by email or at my office) HW4 Key
Homework 5 Th 3/23 @ beginning of class HW5 Key
Homework 6 Th 3/30 @ beginning of class HW6 Key
LX631 Reading Response #2 (Lehrer & Lehrer 1982) Tu 4/11 @ beginning of class
Homework 7 Tu 4/18 @ beginning of class HW7 Key
Exam #2 Answer Key
Homework 8 Tu 4/25 @ beginning of class HW8 Key
Homework 9 Tu 5/2 @ beginning of class HW9 Key
LX631 Reading Response #3 (Hoeksema 1986) W 5/10 @ 10pm



Class Info

  • Spring 2017
  • TuTh 12:30-1:45, CAS 218

Instructor Info

  • Peter Alrenga
  • 617.353.6221
  • 621 Commonwealth Ave #110
  • OH: M 11-12:30 / Tu 2:30-4
      (and by appt)