Hauptseminar, WiSe 2016/17, Syntax-semantics Interface

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General information


Time: Wednesday, 8.15-9.15 am

Room: New! IG 3.201

Olat course: https://olat-ce.server.uni-frankfurt.de/olat/auth/RepositoryEntry/4208361500


The syntax-semantics interface is concerned with the relation, the form and the meaning of a sentence. A central observation is that, usually, the meaning of a sentence is predictable on the basis of the meaning of the words used in the sentence and the way in which they are combined. In this course we will explore ways to make this general idea more precise. We will see how these approaches cover general phenomena, but we will also look at a range of phenomena that are challenges to this general observation and see how various approaches attempt to handle them.

The phenomena to look at may include:

  • linking (the association of syntactic arguments with semantic argument slots)
  • the interpretation of quantified expressions (such as "every book")
  • semantic concord phenomena (as in substandard "nobody ain't doin' nothing")
  • pragmatic effects on sentence interpretation

For meeting 4

Homework 4

  • Give the syntactic structure and the logical form of the following sentence.
  • Provide the semantic translation for the words in the sentences.
  • Provide the semantic translation of all nodes in the trees for the sentences.


(i) Chris partied.
(ii) Chris invited Alex.
(iii) Chris invited Alex and Chris partied.
(iv) Chris didn't invite Pat.
For (iv): treat didn't as a single lexical item. Your resulting expression should be ¬invite2(chris,pat).


The following video presents the step-by-step computation of the truth value of two formulae with connectives. The example uses a model based on Shakespeare's play Macbeth. The two formulae are:

  • ¬ king(lady-macbeth)
  • king(duncan) ∨ king(lady-macbeth)

The next video shows how the truth value of a more complex formula can be computed. The example contains two connectives:

kill(malcom,lady-macbeth) ∨ ¬thane(macbeth)

The video shows two different methods: top down and bottom up.

Chris Potts has produced a series of videos to explain a lambda-based combinatorial semantics. In particular, video 2 is relevant for us!

For meeting 3


  • Read Chapter 2, Sections of Levine et al. (in prep.) (available on olat as lrs-vol1-161020.pdf)
  • Watch the videos below
  • Provide one true and two false atomic formula with respect to the model from our class meeting and provide a step-by-step computation of the truth values of these three formulae.


Slides: File:WS1617-Interface-slides03-final.pdf

Video 1: Model

Video 2: Truth conditions for atomic formulae

For meeting 2

course requirement etc: File:Interface-slides01.pdf
predicate logic tutorial: File:Interface-slides01-predicatelogic.pdf