LIN 141: Semantics

Teaching Team

Instructor Lecture Day, Time Lecture Hall Email Office Hours Office
Masoud Jasbi Tue + Thu, 1:40-3pm Olson Hall 250 Fri, 12-1pm or by email Kerr Hall 279
TA Section Section Location Email Office Hours Office
Casey Felton Wed, 3:10-4:00 PM Wellmann Hall 115 Tue + Thu 12:30 - 1:30 Kerr Hall 269


Week Month Date Topic Content Readings Assignments
1 September 28 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 October 3 Sentence Meaning Propositions, Syntax and Semantics of Propositional Logic, Truth, Entailment, Logical Connectives, sets, relations, functions Textbook Ch.3 Quiz 2
3 10 Sub-sentential Meaning Individuals, Predicates, Relations, First-order Quantification, Syntax and Semantics of Predicate Logic Textbook Ch.4 Quiz 3
4 17 The Semantic Lego Compositionality, Typed Lambda Calculus, Function Application Textbook Ch.5 + 6.1 + 6.2 Quiz 4 + Argument Map 1
5 24 Adjectives and Quantifiers Types of adjectives, Generalized Quantifiers Textbook Ch.6.3 + 6.4 + 7 Quiz 5
6 31 Ambiguity Ambiguity, Vagueness, Underspecificity, Context-sensitivity
November 2
7 7 Presuppositions Common Ground, Semantic vs. Pragmatic Presuppositions, Entailment Canceling Environments Textbook Chapter 8 Quiz 6
8 14 Meaning in Conversation Gricean Typology of Meaning, Implicatures, Logic and Language, Rational Speech Act Models Grice (1975): Logic and Conversation Quiz 7 + Argument Map 2
16 Grice (1978): Further Notes on Logic and Conversation
9 21 The Meaning of the Law Quiz 8
23 Thanksgiving
10 28 Speech Acts locution, illocution, perlocution; Lying, Deception, Bald-faced Lying, Bullshitting Searle (1968): Austin on Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts
30 Meibaur (2011): On Lying (available in Canvas Files)
11 December 5 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

Textbook and Learning Tools

Textbook Invitation to Formal Semantics Tools Canvas for announcements, assignments, video recordings, and some readings.
By Elizabeth Coppock (BU) and Lucas Champollion (NYU)

Course Objectives

Objective Course Component
1 Introduce the main topics in the study meaning in natural language Readings, Lectures
4 Practice basic semantic analysis and formal modeling Quizzes
3 Show connections between topics in semantics-pragmatics and real world issues Readings, Lectures
4 Practice critical and scientific thinking Argument Maps, Discussion Forum, Amicus Brief


Participation 10 Points Discussion Forum 10 Points 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 point. No strict deadlines for these. They must be submitted before the exam week.
Analytic Skills 40 Points Weekly Quizzes 40 Points 8 weekly online quizzes on Canvas, 5 points 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 question bank. You have multiple attempts for each quiz and your highest grade will be recorded. There is no deadline for these quizzes. They must be submitted before the exam week.
Critical Thinking 50 Points
Argument Map 20 Points Two argument maps on the following two papers (each worth 10 points, availabe on Canvas Files):
1. Arnold & Zuberb├╝hler (2006): Semantic Combinations in Primate Calls. Nature
2. Orvell, Kross, & Gelman (2017): How "you" makes meaning. Science
Take a look at this introduction to argument maps and how we use them in this class. Argument maps have strict deadlines on Canvas.
Small Model First Draft 10 Points Create a small model of a real or imaginary scenario similar to what we did in class with the clip from the Simpsons. Include the link to the video of what you are modeling. Your model needs have a domain of individuals and an interpretation function that interprets your individual constants and your predicates. Further instructions on Canvas. Submit as early as you can to recieve feedback.
Small Model Final Draft 20 Points Revise the first draft of your model to correct any mistakes. Then translate sentences of English into the logical langauge we created in class and interpret it according to the model you have built. You need to have one intransitive, one transitive, one ditransitive, one predicative adjectival, one modificational adjectival, one with a unary or binary connective, and two quantificational sentences (one universal and one existential). There is a strict deadline on Canvas.
Deadlines There are no deadlines for quizzes and discussion posts. They can be submitted at any point during the quarter before the the exam week. The argument maps and amicus brief drafts have strict deadlines on Canvas. We deduct 1 points for each day these assignments are late.
Submission Format Quizzes can be found in the Quizzes section of Canvs. Argument Maps and Amicus Briefs can be uploaded and submitted in the Assignments section on Canvas. Do not include your name or any identifying information in the assignments. If an answer is handwritten and cannot be determined due to illegibility, no points are assigned to that answer. In order to avoid grading biases, all grading is done either automatically or anonymously.
Grading The points you earn during the course will turn into your letter grade according to the following 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. No titles or last name needed.
Participation We believe that the class benefits enormously from you sharing your thoughts and questions. Your background, life experiences, knowledge, thoughts, and ideas make you unique, and the 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 the education. Instead of discouraging it, we would like to practice it. Here is a flowchart that you might find useful. Ultimately, we trust your judgment.
Questions There are no "stupid" questions in a classroom. The point of going to a class is to learn and questions are the best tool for 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!