Dynamic Semantics
(featured course, Semantics)

Dynamic semantics models how linguistic expressions change the context and thereby affect the interpretation of subsequent context-dependent expressions. This idea has been implemented in various ways, shedding new light on a host of phenomena in typologically diverse languages. This course is an introduction to update semantics, which implements the idea that “you know the meaning of a sentence if you know the change it brings about in the information state of anyone who accepts the news conveyed by it” (Veltman 1996). We discuss how the key notions of update semantics—such as information stateupdate, and discourse referent—should be formalized in the light of cross-linguistic evidence. Following an introductory overview, we focus on four cross-linguistic phenomena that provide relevant evidence: (i) nominal anaphora (English pronouns, Kalaallisut obviation, Chinese topic chaining), (ii) indexicality (English, Kalaallisut, Slavey), (iii) temporal reference (in tense-based English and tenseless aspect-based Chinese), and (iv) quantification.

After each lecture, the slides will be published below:

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© Maria Bittner 2012