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.
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.