Semantics and pragmatics (2018/2019)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Denis Delfitto
Denis Delfitto
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 1A, Sem. 1B

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

This course consists in an introduction to formal semantics, formal pragmatics and to the formal and experimental methods in the study of linguistic meaning, as well as to the relationship between linguistics and cognitive science. The acquisition of these competences constitutes an essential aspect of the learning process envisaged within the course of study in Linguistics.
Expected results:
- Adequate knowledge of the analyses of meaning produced within the tradition of studies in formal semantics and the philosophy of language
- Adequate knowledge of the context-driven aspects of meaning, including the broad cognitive aspects, as investigated in formal and experimental pragmatics
- The ability to read and understand even technical contributions in semantics and pragmatics
- The skill to use the right concepts and a correct scientific terminology when discussing issues of meaning in natural language, as well as the skill to apply some of the most common experimental methods in this scientific field.


This course is intended to provide an introduction to the concepts and methods proper to the theory of meaning for natural language.
The first part of the course will consist in an analysis of the compositionality of meaning, by means of the notions of functional application, quantification and reference, which will be addressed from a broad philosophical perspective, based on the classical contributions by Frege, Russell and Kripke.
The second part of the course will address the relationship between language and context, by introducing the participants to the main developments in formal and experimental pragmatics, also from a general cognitive perspective (Relevance Theory).
The course will crucially include a first training in first-order logic and an introduction to the methods and techniques in experimental pragmatics.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Betty J. Birner Introduction to Pragmatics Wiley-Blackwell 2013
Colin McGinn Philosophy of language. The classics explained MIT Press 2015

Assessment methods and criteria

The oral exam will consist in a series of questions aimed at checking whether the participants sufficiently master the notions and the methods in formal semantics and experimental pragmatics presented and discussed during the course. During the exam, the participants will also be requested to do some exercises (on paper or at the blackboard).