Linguist 130a/230a: Introduction to semantics & pragmatics — Syllabus

Brief description

Linguistic meaning and its role in communication. Topics include logical semantics, conversational implicature, presupposition, speech acts. Applications to issues in politics, the law, philosophy, advertising, and natural language processing. Those who have not taken logic, such as PHIL 150 or 151, should attend section. Pre- or corequisite: Linguist 120, or consent of instructor. 4 units.


Attendance and participation (5%)

Attendance will be taken daily. Class will begin on time and end on time; we are obliged to finish on time, and you are obliged to arrive on time.

We would like everyone to ask questions, offer ideas, etc., in class. Questions, ideas, and responses posted on our discussion board also count as participation.

Quizzes (20%)

These will be administered via Canvas. A new one will be assigned essentially every day we meet, and it will close right at the start of the next class meeting, so that we have the option of discussing it in class. Each one will be about 5 short questions designed to make sure that you're keeping up with the material. They will always be open notes, open book, etc., but no collaboration will be permitted. Quizzes cannot be completed for credit after their due date.

Readings and associated assignments (55%)

Assignments will be distributed on Tuesdays and due one week later. They will often have readings associated with them. All readings will be distributed electronically via the website.

All assignments should be submitted via Canvas.

Assignments must arrive before the start of class on the day they are due. After 10:30, they are 1 day late, and so on for subsequent calendar days. Late assignments will be graded as though they were not late, but then 2% of the grade earned will be deducted for each day the assignment is late, with a maximum penalty of 35%. All late work must be turned in by Mar 21, 3:15 pm.

A special note about collaboration: you are permitted to work together on the assignments (but not in-class exercises or exams). However, you must write up and hand in your own unique assignment, and it must list at the top all the students with whom you worked.

Midterm exam, and final exam or final project (20%)

There will be two take-home exams, one distributed on Feb 12 and due by 10:30 am, Feb 14, and the other distributed on Mar 14 and due at the end of the class's scheduled exam period (which we will not use): Mar 20, 3:15 pm. Both will mainly involve questions like those from the in-class exercises and weekly assignments. The exams are open notes, open book, but no consultation or collaboration with others is permitted.

Students enrolled in 230a and students taking this course for the Writing in the Major requirement will be required to submit a final project instead of taking the final exam. This will involve a number of preliminary steps that will be incorporated into optional questions on assignments 5, 6, and 7.

Collaborative final projects are an option with a group-size limit of two. They require special permission from Chris, and the final submission must include a short section explaining how the work was divided among the project members.

The final project is an option for everyone (a requirement only for the groups just mentioned). Doing a final project is highly recommended for students who think they might want a recommendation letter from Chris.

Map from numerical final grades to letter grades

Grade rangeLetter grade
≥ 100 A+
≥ 94A
≥ 90A−
≥ 87B+
≥ 84B
≥ 80B−
≥ 77C+
≥ 74C
≥ 70C−
≥ 67D+
≥ 64D
≥ 60D−
< 60No pass

Academic honesty

Please familiarize yourself with Stanford's honor code. We will adhere to it and follow through on its penalty guidelines.

Students with documented disabilities

From Stanford's Office of Accessible Education:

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066, URL: