UMass Sesquicentennial


720 Proseminar on Semantic Theory (3 units)

Fall 2009

Meetings

W 2:30-5:15 - Hasbrouck Lab Add 106

Instructors

Barbara H. Partee []

Description

A bridge between the introductory courses 610 and 620 and more advanced seminars. Content variable from year to year.

“In some utterances, some material does not seem to be explicitly expressed in words, but nevertheless seems to be part of the literal content of the utterance rather than an implicature. I will call material of this kind implicit content.” (Elbourne, SALT 18 paper, in press.) Examples include apparent implicit arguments of words like local, enemy (Mitchell, Partee), the implicit quantifier restriction in Everyone was asleep, the implicit time and place parameters in It was raining, a “perspective” parameter for come vs. go (Fillmore), null anaphora in John didn’t notice, Lasersohn’s “judge” parameter for words like fun and delicious.

Studying this topic involves studying quite a range of syntactic and semantic phenomena and looking at a number of different sorts of theoretical approaches to specific problems and to frameworks for semantics and pragmatics. Implicit content is directly relevant to some issues in the philosophy of language (“Contextualism”, “Relativist Semantics”): sentences have truth values relative to what?

We’ll begin with background on anaphora, indexicality, quantification, and definite descriptions, since much of the analysis of implicit content starts from the observation that implicit arguments often have properties in common with overt pronouns or indexicals or definite descriptions. (Heim, Kaplan, Dowty, Mitchell, Partee, others.) That will also get us into the parallels between anaphora and presupposition satisfaction (Heim, van der Sandt). We’ll also look at the role of situations in semantics and formal pragmatics in explicating context-dependence and “quantified contexts” (Barwise, Perry, Cooper, Kratzer, Berman, Elbourne, others).

Some of the authors whose work relating to implicit content and implicit arguments we’ll look at work include Condoravdi & Gawron, von Fintel, Lasersohn, Elbourne, Bhatt & Pancheva, Martí, Recanati, Stanley & Szabó.

A summary of some of the issues we’ll be addressing can be found in my last lecture in Moscow this spring, Lecture 12: Implicit Arguments and Points of View. It can be found at http://people.umass.edu/partee/MGU_2009/materials/MGU0912.pdf .

Seminar participants will be expected to make one or two class presentations, ideally one on some reading, one toward the end on your term paper project. There will be homework approximately weekly in the first half of the semester, after which you’ll concentrate on your term paper.

Note: I’ll be away in weeks 2 & 3: I don’t want to cancel class, so what I’ll ask you to do in those two weeks is to collectively study/ present / discuss Heim’s dissertation. I’ll give you homework about it to turn in when I get back. I recommend starting to read it this month if possible; the contrasts between Heim Chapter II and Heim Chapter III, and between both of those and Heim (1990) are an excellent foundational background to the whole topic, and it’s better if you can read it with enough leisure to think about it as you read.