LIN 141: Semantics

Instructor Lecture Day/Time Lecture Hall Email Office Hours Office
Masoud Jasbi Tue/Thu, 1:40-3pm Canvas Zoom Section Fri, 1:30-3pm (By Appointment: Book Here!)
Mon, 5-6pm (Open to all)
Canvas Zoom Section
Reader Email
Zhuang (Harvey) Qiu


Week Month Date Topic Content Readings Assignments
1 March/April 30 What does Meaning mean? What is Meaning? Is language illogical?, Formal approaches to Meaning, Taxonomy of Meaning Textbook Ch.1 + 2.1 + 2.3 + 2.5 Quiz 1
2 April 6 Sentence Meaning Propositions, Syntax and Semantics of Propositional Logic, Truth, Entailment, Logical Connectives Textbook Ch.3 Quiz 2
3 13 Sub-sentential Meaning Individuals, Predicates, Relations, First-order Quantification, Syntax and Semantics of Predicate Logic Textbook Ch.4 Quiz 3
4 20 The Semantic Lego Compositionality, Typed Lambda Calculus, Function Application Textbook Ch.5 + 6.1 + 6.2 Quiz 4
Argument Map 1
5 27 Adjectives and Quantifiers Types of adjectives, Generalized Quantifiers Textbook Ch.6.3 + 6.4 + 7 Quiz 5
6 May 4 Ambiguity Ambiguity, Vagueness, Underspecificity, Context-sensitivity Quiz 6: Midterm
7 11 Presuppositions Common Ground, Semantic vs. Pragmatic Presuppositions, Entailment Canceling Environments, Holes, Plugs, Filters Textbook Chapter 8 Quiz 7
8 18 Meaning in Conversation Gricean Typology of Meaning, Implicatures, Logic and Language, Rational Speech Act Models Grice (1975): Logic and Conversation Quiz 8
20 Grice (1978): Further Notes on Logic and Conversation
9 25 Speech Acts locution, illocution, perlocution; Lying (Deception, Bald-faced Lying, Bullshitting) Searle (1968): Austin on Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts Quiz 9
Argument Map 2
27 Meibaur (2011): On Lying
10 Jun 1 Social Meaning Inferring social meaning from language use; The Language of Science Eckert (2012): Three Waves of Variation Study: The Emergence of Meaning in the Study of Sociolinguistic Variation Quiz 10

Textbook and Learning Tools

Textbook Invitation to Formal Semantics Tools Canvas, mainly for announcements and assignments.
By Elizabeth Coppock (BU) and Lucas Champollion (NYU) Piazza (available as a tab on Canvas) for (possibly anonymous) questions and discussions among students.

Course Objectives

Objective Course Component
1 Introduce the main topics in formal approaches to meaning Readings, Lectures
4 Practice basic semantic analysis and formal modeling Assignments
3 Show connections between topics in semantics and real world issues Readings, Lectures
4 Practice critical and scientific thinking Argument Maps, Discussion Forum


Participation 10% Discussion Forum 10% Each week, post a question, a comment, or a response to someone else's question on the week's readings in Canvas Discussions section. 10 discussions (1 per week) each worth 1%
Critical Thinking 20% Argument Map 20% 2 argument maps on the following two papers (each worth 10%): 1. Pylkkänen (2019) 2. Frank & Goodman (2012). Take a look at this introduction to argument maps and how we use them in this class.
Analytic Skills 70%
Weekly Quizzes 40% 8 weekly quizzes on Canvas, 5% each. Questions come from the readings of the week and lecture materials. Each quiz has several question-types (covering a specific sub-topic of the week) and the exact questions in that question-type are randomly selected from a bank of questions. You have 10 attempts for each quiz. Your highest grade will be recorded.
Midterm Quiz 10% Similar to weekly quizzes, except that questions are on the materials of weeks 1-5.
Final Quiz 20% Similar to weekly quizzes and the midterm except that the questions are on all of the course content.
OR, alternatively, write a research paper (6-10 pages). Students who choose this option should meet with Masoud to discuss their research topic and propose a timeline.
Late Submission 3% of the grade earned will be deducted for each day the assignment is late, with a maximum penalty of 50%. All late work must be turned in by the Friday before the exam week. This policy can be waived if lateness is due to medical reasons or other special circumstances.
Submission Format Submit your assignments using Canvas. Quizzes can be found in the Quizzes section and Argument Maps can be uploaded and submitted in the Assignments section. If an answer is handwritten and cannot be determined due to illegibility, no points are assigned to that answer. Do not include your name or any identifying information in the assignments. In order to avoid grading biases, all grading is done either automatically or anonymously.
Grading We use the following grading scale:
A+ = 100-97 A = 97-93, A- = 93-90, B+ = 90-87, B = 87-83, B- = 83-80, C+ = 80-77, C = 77-73, C- = 73-70, D+ = 70-67, D = 67-63, D- = 63-60, F = 60-0.
Integrity We follow the UC Davis code of academic conduct. You are permitted to work together on the argument maps but you must write up and submit your own maps. You are expected to do the quizzes individually.
Accessibility Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the UC Davis Student Disability Center. Professional staff will evaluate the request, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare a letter of accommodation for the faculty. Students should contact the SDC as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations.
Addressing the Instructor I prefer Masoud and he/his/him for pronouns. No titles or last name needed.
Participation We believe that our class benefits enormously from you sharing your thoughts and questions. Your background, life experiences, knowledge, thoughts, and ideas make you unique, and our classroom diverse. This diversity of perspectives is the foundation of learning in a classroom. At a larger scale and within a scientific community, it is also a major contributor to scientific progress. Therefore, sharing your thoughts and questions can help us learn and build a wider, stronger community of scholars.

Some of you may worry that your classmate's asking questions and sharing ideas may disrupt the class progress. Judging when to ask a question or share an idea is tricky but also part of education. Instead of discouraging it, we would like to practice it together. Here is flowchart that you might find useful. Ultimately, we trust your judgments.
Questions We genuinly believe that there are no "stupid" questions in a classroom. The point of going to a class is to learn together and questions are our best tool to achieve that. It is easy to show that your question will help us learn no matter what. Your question is either:
(1) not framed well; in which case you give us a chance to explain the topic better. Chances are we did not explain it well the first time and many of your classmates are wondering about it too.
(2) framed well and has an answer we know; in which case we can help you as well as your classmates who have the same question learn it too! You have also helped us consolidate our knowledge by explaining it again.
(3) framed well but has an answer we do not know; in which case we can find the answer together and your question has helped all of us learn!
(4) framed well and does not have an answer yet; in which case you found a research topic someone can start working on and benefit the field!
As you see, your question has helped our learning either way. So please ask!