This course provides an introduction to the study of meaning in natural language. The first part of the course introduces a formal perspective on meaning in terms of truth conditions as well as the basic analytical tools necessary for this, primarily building on set theory and logic. The main part of the course covers a range of empirical investigations of phenomena related to meaning using experimental methods from psycholinguistics. Topics include a selection of issues on the semantics-pragmatics interface, such as conversational implicatures, presuppositions, reference resolution and perspective taking, and quantifier scope. Students will carry out a class project, possibly in groups, to develop (and, if possible, carry out) an experimental study of meaning-related phenomena of their own. Relevant tools for experimental design and the implementation of such studies will be introduced along the way. This provides students with the opportunity to engage in a scientific investigation of their own early on in their undergraduate career in a domain that is easily accessible and yet central to the general enterprise of the cognitive sciences.
NOTE TO PSYCHOLOGY MAJORS: Ling 255 can be counted towards the ‘Additional Psych Courses’, as specified in the Undergraduate Handbook.
NOTE TO COGNITIVE SCIENCE MAJORS: Ling 255 counts towards Concentration 3: Language and Mind