The primary goal of this course is to cover advanced topics in semantics and pragmatics that are central to research in those fields. The course is aimed at advanced graduate students who plan to do research in semantics, pragmatics, or philosophy of language. Prerequisites: Linguist 130A/230A or permission from instructor. 2-4 units.
All course-related email should be sent directly to the course instructor at
The course will be discussion-based, so it is essential that students attend every class and participate in all the discussions.
Assignments will be distributed on Tuesdays and due one week later, by the start of class. They will always have three parts:
- Part 1 will pose questions about the previous readings. These will be drawn from student responses to part 3.
- Part 2 will pose some questions about the current reading.
- Part 3 will ask you to come up with a question of your own about the current reading. The ideal question will probe deeply into the article in such a way that a person who took the time to answer it would come away with a fuller understanding of the material. I mean question in the broad sense from assignments and exams — a task, a request for new data, a drawing ... whatever will help the reader the most.
The final project for the course will take the form of a 12-14 page literature review summarizing and synthesizing at least eight papers in a coherent sub-area of semantics or pragmatics. Tips on major things to include:
- General area: What area do these papers address, what are the core descriptive generalizations, and what general methods do people use?
- Concise summaries of the articles: Put in your own words the major contributions of each article.
- Compare and contrast: Point out the similarities and differences of the papers. Do they agree with each other? Are results seemingly in conflict? What are currently the most active areas of research?
- Future work: Make several suggestions for how the work can be extended. Are there open questions to answer? Are new kinds of data needed? New tools?
The weekly assignments will include prompts and interim tasks to help you get this project going.
Variable credit options
- 4 credits: all required work
- 3 credits: all the weekly assignments
- 2 credits: only part 2 of all the weekly assignments
Each student will have a total of 4 free late (calendar) days applicable to any assignment (including the lit review and project milestone) except the final project paper. These can be used at any time, no questions asked. Each 24 hours or part thereof that a homework is late uses up one full late day. Once these late days are exhausted, any homework turned in late will be penalized 20% per late day. Late days are not applicable to final projects.
Please familiarize yourself with Stanford's honor code
We will adhere to it and follow through on its penalty guidelines.
Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) located within the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). SDRC staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the SDRC as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066).