UMass Sesquicentennial

620 Formal Semantics (3 units)

Spring 2012


M 2:30-5:15 - Dickinson 206


Angelika Kratzer []


This course is a continuation of LING 610.

For Spring 2012: Ling 620 is designed for PhD students in linguistics who are interested in acquiring hands-on experience with doing original research in semantics or at the syntax-semantics interface. The class will meet once a week for a long three hour session consisting of a lecture and a lab/workshop where students are guided towards individual research projects and work through custom-designed worksheets. Ling 620 focuses on the properties of the verbal projection spine from a cross-linguistic perspective: building argument structure, aktionsart, viewpoint aspect, tense, and modality. You will read some of the literature on each of those topics, but most of our collective effort will consist in using our findings to build a coherent semantic theory of verbs, verbal inflectional heads, and their interactions in the verbal projection spine. Here are the topics in a little more detail:

  • 1. Building argument structure: a case study of resultatives.
  • 2. Three ways of building a stative predicate.
  • 3. Building telic VPs from atelic ones.
  • 4. Viewpoint aspect: perfective, imperfective, and perfect.
  • 5. Tenses in matrix and embedded sentences. Are there tenseless languages?
  • 6. Modality: root and epistemic modals, evidentials.

Auditors are welcome to the lectures, the workshops/labs are reserved for active participants. It would be good for me to know as soon as possible who is planning to be an active participant, what topics prospective participants are most interested in, and what language(s) they might want to work on. We could then meet individually to work out a reading list for the break.