Introduction to the scientific study of meaning
Face to face classes (If it is allowed)
The objective of this course is to gain a basic familiarity with contemporary topics in the scientific study of meaning. The course will consist of an introduction to natural language semantics and pragmatics as well as a survey of various topics of contemporary interest, some of which will be taught by invited experts on the field. Topics will include: natural language inferences, indexicality, expressive and subjective language and experimental methods.
The course will consist of an introduction to semantics and pragmatics as well as a set of introductions to contemporary topics in semantics and pragmatics. Some of these topics will be taught, in part or in full, by an invited expert. Each session will involve the active participation of students. Problems and exercises will be discussed in groups, and different groups will assess each other’s solutions. After each session, further problems and exercises will be provided. The language of the course will be English.
Session 1 – Introdution
Introduce the topic of the compositional program in semantics and pragmatics, and we will discuss its origins in the philosophy of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein and Davidson. We will discuss both the power and limitations of this approach to the study of meaning. Specifically, we will consider Benveniste’s pioneering distinction between énoncé and énonciation as posing a challenge to a formal, language-independent approach to the study of meaning
Session 2 – Natural language inferences (invited speaker: Milica Denić, U. Amsterdam)
Study the various natural language inferences that have been characterized in formal semantics and pragmatics, in particular: entailments, presuppositions and implicatures. These inferences illustrate the distinction between semantics and pragmatics, as some of these inferences are coded into the lexical meaning of expressions and some are thought to arise due to particular communicative constrains.
Session 3 – Indexicality (invited speaker: Amir Anvari, Institut Jean Nicod)
we will look at indexicals. Indexicals are expressions whose meaning depends on context. Personal pronouns, such as I, or adverbs such as here or now, are paradigmatic examples. Indexicality introduces fundamental challenges to our view of reference and meaning. This is illustrated by work in the structuralist tradition on pronouns, later picked up by D. Kaplan. We will introduce contextualism about expressions other than indexicals, and finally, we will look at the phenomenon of indexical shift.
Session 4 – Subjectivity & Expressivity (invited speaker: Bianca Cepollaro, U. Vita-Salute San Raffaele)
we will look at subjective and expressive language. Subjective language includes aesthetic and moral adjectives, as well as predicates of personal taste. Expressive language includes pejoratives, epithets and slurs. We will see how research in these areas interacts with natural language inferences and indexicality in interesting ways. Specifically, we will see how subjective and expressive language communicates affective, political and emotional attitudes. We will also countenance the metatheoretical possibility, prominent in French linguistics (e.g., Benveniste, Culioli), that certain fundamental technical distinctions (Saussure’s langue and parole; Frege’s Sinn and Bedeutung) are language-driven and could be questioned from a subjectivist perspective.
Session 5 – Experimental methods (invited speaker: Mora Maldonado, U. Pompeu Fabra)
The last session will be devoted to studying experimental work in semantics and pragmatics. We will look at how to design and program experiments, and we will look at experiments on previously surveyed areas, that is, presupposition and implicature, indexicals and subjective & expressive language.
Formal content will be kept to a minimum, although basic acquaintance with propositional logic and set theory will be assumed. A problem set will be forwarded to registered students in advance of the course, to help them brush up their prior knowledge.
- Kratzer, A., & Heim, I. (1998). Semantics in generative grammar. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Schlenker, P. (2016). The Semantics/Pragmatics Interface. To appear in the Cambridge Handbook of Formal Semantics, eds. Aloni and Dekker.
- Kaplan, D (1989). “Demonstratives”. In Themes from Kaplan. Oxford University Press.
- Cepollaro, B., Soria Ruiz, A. & Stojanovic, I. (2021). “The semantics and pragmatics of value judgments.” To appear in the Cambridge Handbook of Philosophy of Language, ed. Stalmaszczyk. // Cummins, C., & Katsos, N. (Eds.). (2019). The Oxford Handbook of Experimental Semantics and Pragmatics. Oxford University Press.
- Benveniste, É. Problèmes de linguistique générale, t. 1, Paris, Gallimard, 1966. // Culioli, A. (1990). Pour une linguistique de l énonciation: opérations et représentations (Vol. 1). Editions Ophrys.
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Andrés Soria Ruiz é um filósofo com um conhecimento alargado dos debates contemporâneos em metaética e filosofia da linguagem e com um sólido domínio da semântica formal e pragmática contemporânea. A sua tese oferece uma teoria expressivista dos adjetivos avaliativos que tem em conta as suas propriedades escalares. Os seus interesses abrangem outros tópicos da filosofia da linguagem e da semântica formal e pragmática (predicados de atitude, sinonímia; a distinção de re/se/dicto). Andrés Soria Ruiz é um investigador integrado do ArgLab-IFILNOVA.