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Lecturer: Prof.ssa Bianchi Valentina

Introduction to compositional semantics a.y. 2021/22


In this course we will consider how formal semantics characterizes, at an abstract type-theoretic level, the meaning of various parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, determiner); we will sketch the recursive mechanisms that build complex syntactic structures, and we will then introduce some basic rules that compose the meaning of words into that of complex expressions, based on the syntactic articulation of these, up to the whole sentence. At the core of this approach is the notion of a model of interpretation, and a meta-language that exploits functions and function application as the most general compositional mechanism. 
Following a well-known didactic strategy, we will first consider an extensional semantics, which interprets natural language expressions relative to a single circumstance of evaluation; we will then introduce the intensional dimension, in which the meaning of expressions varies as a function of different possible worlds/circumstances. 
Finally, we will discuss in more detail two semantic phenomena that dramatically increase the expressive power of natural language: firstly, nominal quantification (over entities), which will be shown to be significantly richer than quantification of first order logic; secondly, modal operators, which quantify over possible worlds/circumstances and allow us to reason about non-actual states of the world. Time permitting, we will also discuss the connection between modals and evaluative expressions.


November 29th, 2021, h. 9-12 10-13; 15-17


Portner, Paul. What is meaning? Fundamentals of formal semantics. Blackwell.


Credit: 1 


Tipologia corso : Tipo b

Periodo: Semestre I

Anno accademico: 2021-2022

Luogo : Iuss, Sala del Camino

Durata : 5 ore