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LINGUIST 3II3 Semantics

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Cassandra Chapman


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 629

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24388

Office Hours: Thursdays 1-2 pm (TSH 512)

Course Objectives:

  1. understand semantics as the scientific study of meaning;
  2. explain compositionality;
  3. understand the relation between syntax and semantics;
  4. identify and analyze different types of English predicates and referring expressions;
  5. comprehend the difference between extensional and intensional semantics; and
  6. understand and explain the relation between semantics and pragmatics.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required: Portner, Paul. (2005). What is Meaning? Fundamentals of Formal Semantics. Blackwell Publishing.

Optional: iClicker

Method of Assessment:

Online quizzes (5)

Grade calculated on best 4 out of 5 quiz grades

To be announced in class and on Avenue


Problem Sets (4)

To be announced in class and on Avenue


Midterm exam

February 15


Final exam

Weight can be reduced by accumulating bonus points (see below and Avenue for details)

TBD by registrar


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late work: Late work will not be accepted and students will receive a grade of zero (0).

Missed work: Students can submit a McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) for up to one (1) missed problem set over the term. MSAFs cannot be used for online quizzes (lowest quiz grade will be dropped) or for the midterm (it is worth more than 25%). It is the student’s responsibility to use the MSAF tool through Mosaic and to follow up with the instructor as soon as possible after the form has been submitted to determine how they will make up the work. Note that MSAFs cannot be submitted during the final exam period and thus, cannot be used for the final exam.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:




Week 1 (Jan 4)

Introduction to formal semantics, compositionality and the scientific study of meaning

Chapter 1

Week 2 (Jan 8, 11)

Referentiality, compositionality, the relation between syntax and semantics

Chapter 2

Week 3 (Jan 15, 18)


Chapter 3

Week 4 (Jan 22, 25)


Chapter 4

Week 5  (Jan 29, Feb 1)

Referring expressions

Chapter 5

Week 6 (Feb 5, 8)


Chapter 6

Week 7 (Feb 12, 15)

Review and Midterm (Feb 15)


February 19-February 23



Week 8 (Feb 26, 29)

Extensions versus intensions

Chapter 7

Week 9 (Mar 5, 8)

Tense, aspect and modality

Chapter 8

Week 10 (Mar 12, 15)

Propositional attitudes

Chapter 9

Week 11 (Mar 19, 22)

Pragmatics and givenness

Chapter 10

Week 12 (Mar 26, 29)

Pragmatics and inference, implicatures

Chapter 11

Week 13 (Apr 2, 5)

Formal semantics today

Chapter 12

Week 14 (Apr 9)

Review for Final Exam


Other Course Information:

Bonus Points

You will have the opportunity to earn up to 6% in bonus points over the course of the term. Any bonus points that you accumulate will decrease the weight of your final exam. There are two ways that you can accumulate bonus points:

i) iClicker: There will be an opportunity for you to “click” in each lecture starting in Week 2. You must click 80% of the time to earn 4% in bonus points. If you complete this activity, your final exam will be worth 36%. No partial bonus points will be given. It is either 4% in bonus points or no bonus points.

ii) Experiment participation: You can choose to participate in experiments being conducted in the Department of Linguistics and Languages throughout the semester. If you participate in a
1-hour experiment, you will earn 2% in bonus points. If you complete this activity, your final exam will be worth 38%.

If you complete both activities, your final exam will be worth 34%. If you choose to not complete either activity, your final exam will be worth 40%.