Compositional Semantics

Instructor: Elizabeth Coppock (
Heinrich Heine University, Winter Semester 2011/12
Wednesdays, 14:30--16:00
Building 23.21, Room 00.82

Office hour: Tuesdays 14:30--16:00, 23.21-04.52

Course Description

This course concerns the question of how the meanings of complex phrases are built up from the meanings of their parts. One possible answer -- called the 'Fregean program' in the extremely influential textbook that we will use by Heim and Kratzer -- is that all phrases combine through a single composition rule, namely 'Functional Application': applying a function to an argument. Through the study of a range of phenomena, including adjectival modification, definite and indefinite noun phrases, relative clauses, quantifiers, and pronouns, we will become tempted to invoke other compositional mechanisms as well. These include (i) additional composition rules such as 'Predicate Modification' and 'Predicate Abstraction', and (ii) 'flexible typing', which allows the meaning of a phrase to be altered via 'type-shifting' rules, thereby changing how it combines with other phrases.

Assessment criteria


Extra credit assignment (due December 12th): Generalized quantifiers


12.10.2011PS1 [model solutions]propositional logic,Kearns (2000): 25-35
compositionality/setsHeim and Kratzer (1998), ch. 1
19.10.2011PS2 [model solutions]models, interpretationDowty et al. (1981) ch. 2, pp. 14-35, 44-47
26.10.2011PS3 [deadline extended]Heim and Kratzer style semanticsH+K ch. 2
2.11.2011PS3 [model solutions]lambdasH+K ch. 2
9.11.2011PS4 [PDF, Q1-8 (Word), Q9 (Word)]type-driven interpretationH+K ch. 3, pp. 43-9, H+K ch. 4, pp. 61-66
16.11.2011PS5 [see 30.11 handout]partial functionsH+K ch. 4, pp. 73-83
23.11.2011PS6first order logicDowty et al. (1981), ch. 3, pp. 56-66
30.11.2011PS7top down and bottom up computationDowty et al. (1981), ch. 3, pp. 66-81
7.12.2011PS8relative clausesH+K ch. 5, pp. 86-108
21.12.2011[no class]
28.12.2011[no class]
4.1.2012[no class]
11.1.2012PS9quantifiersH+K ch. 6
18.1.2012PS10QRH+K ch. 7
25.1.2012PS11pronounsH+K ch. 9
1.2.2012PS12bindingH+K ch. 10

Note: Problem sets are due at the class meeting after they are assigned. For example, PS1 is due on October 19th.