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Introduction to Natural Language Semantics

Henriëtte de Swart

This introduction is concerned with the semantics of natural languages. Semantics is defined as the study of meaning expressed by elements of a language or combinations thereof. These combinations of language--whether written or spoken--are used to convey information, and are linked with kinds of events, with states of mind, etc. Speaker and hearer use language to communicate.

The text examines what issues semantics, as a theory of meaning, should address; determining what the meanings of words of the language are and how to semantically combine elements of a language to build up complex meanings. Logical languages are then developed as formal metalanguages to natural language. Subsequent chapters address propositional logic, the syntax and semantics of (first-order) predicate logic as an extension of propositional logic, and Generalized Quantifier theory. Going beyond extensional theory, de Swart relativizes the interpretation of expressions to times to account for verbal tense, time adverbials and temporal connectives and introduces possible worlds to model intensions, modal adverbs and modal auxiliaries.

This broad overview of natural language semantics should cover most of the points addressed in an introductory course. Numerous exercises punctuate each chapter and an example exam based on the materials presented is included, making this volume a perfect textbook and resource for any undergraduate or graduate-level introductory course in semantics.

Henriëtte de Swart is Professor of French Literature in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Utrecht.

Contents

  • Preface
  • 1 What is Meaning?
    • 1.1 Language and meaning
    • 1.2 Meaning, mind and world
    • 1.3 The place of semantics in linguistic theory
    • 1.4 Exercises

  • 2 Desiderata for a theory of meaning
    • 2.1 A structured lexicon
    • 2.2 From words to sentences: a historical intermezzo
    • 2.3 Meaning at the sentence level
      • 2.3.1 Similarities between meaning at the word level and meaning at the sentence level
      • 2.3.2 Syntax-semantics interface
      • 2.3.3 Semantic interface
    • 2.4 Constraints on a theory of meaning
      • 2.4.1 Compositionality
      • 2.4.2 Object language and metalanguage
    • 2.5 Exercises

  • 3 Connectives, truth, and truth conditions
    • 3.1 Reasoning patterns
    • 3.2 Syntax of propositional logic: propositions and conditions
    • 3.3 Semantics of propositional logic: truth, and truth conditions
    • 3.4 Sentential connections
      • 3.4.1 Negation
      • 3.4.2 Conjunction
      • 3.4.3 Disjunction
      • 3.4.4 Conditional and bi-conditional
      • 3.4.5 Complex truth tables
      • 3.4.6 Interdefinability and logical equivalence
    • 3.5 Back to Inference patterns
    • 3.6 Summary
    • 3.7 Exercises

  • 4 Predication and quantification
    • 4.1 Predicates and arguments
      • 4.1.1 Below the propositional level
      • 4.1.2 The syntax of predicates and arguments
      • 4.1.3 The semantics of predicate-argument structures
      • 4.1.4 Semantic properties of relations
    • 4.2 Quantifiers
      • 4.2.1 Variable binding
      • 4.2.2 Semantics of quantification structures
    • 4.3 Inference patterns
    • 4.4 Summary
    • 4.5 Exercises

  • 5 Scope and anaphora
    • 5.1 Quantifying Scope
    • 5.2 Deriving Scope ambiguities
      • 5.2.1 Quantifier raising
      • 5.2.2 Quantifying-in
      • 5.2.3 Quantifier storage
    • 5.3 Other scope bearing expressions
      • 5.3.1 Scope in questions
      • 5.3.2 Split constructions
    • 5.4 Anaphora
      • 5.4.1 Deitic, referential and bound variable interpretations
      • 5.4.2 Quantification and anaphora in complex constructions
    • 5.5 Exercises

  • 6 Discourse and donkey anaphora
    • 6.1 Discourse as the basic unit of interpretation
      • 6.1.1 Discourse anaphora
      • 6.1.2 Donkey anaphora
    • 6.2 General aims of dynamic semantics
    • 6.3 Anaphoric relations in sentence and discourse
      • 6.3.1 E-type anaphora
      • 6.3.2 Unselective binding
      • 6.3.3 Dynamic binding
    • 6.4 Anaphora resolution
    • 6.5 Exercises

  • 7 Limits of first-order predicate logic
    • 7.1 Not enough types
    • 7.2 Not enough quantifiers
    • 7.3 Compositionality
    • 7.4 Exercises

  • 8 Generalized Quantifier theory
    • 8.1 NPs and determiners
    • 8.2 Constraints on determiner denotations
    • 8.3 Subclasses of determiners
      • 8.3.1 The weak/strong distinction
      • 8.3.2 Partivity
      • 8.3.3 Monotonicity
      • 8.3.4 Negative polarity
    • 6.4 Exercises

  • 9 Worlds and times
    • 9.1 Time and tense
    • 9.2 Intension and extension
    • 9.3 Counterfactuals
    • 9.4 World-creating predicates
    • 9.5 Modal auxiliaries and adverbs
    • 9.6 More about intensionality
    • 9.7 Exercises

  • Appendix
    • A.i Examples of an exam
    • A.ii Answers to exam questions

  • References
  • Subject Index
  • Name Index

3/1/98

ISBN (Paperback): 1575861380 (9781575861388)
ISBN (Electronic): 1575867877 (9781575867878)

Subject: Linguistics; Grammar--Semantics

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