Accessibility statement

Introduction to semantics



The module aims to equip students with the basic conceptual and formal tools of semantics and to a lesser extent of pragmatics. Students will learn how to formulate limited hypotheses and test them using basic semantic tests. Expected outcomes are listed below.

Knowledge outcomes

At the end of this module you will understand:

  • The distinction between different semantic levels (lexical, sentential, discoursal)
  • The relationship between syntax and semantics
  • The distinction between semantics and pragmatics
  • The relationship between words, concepts, and things/facts (sense, reference, extension/intension)
  • The importance of entailment and the distinction between entailment, presupposition and inference
  • The importance of truth and truth conditions
  • The importance and function of a formal metalanguage
  • Basic logical and set-theoretic concepts, operations and notation

Behavioural outcomes

You will be able to:

  • Distinguish between semantic anomaly and ungrammaticality
  • Apply semantic tests for entailment, implication and presupposition
  • Evaluate predicate logic formulae
  • Translate sentences of English into logic (and, to a lesser extent, vice-versa)
  • Write basic set-theoretic formulae
  • Construct a model
  • Identify well-formed formulae in propositional and predicate logic



There are no prerequisites for this module.



Teaching programme


Weeks 2-3

Introduction; the types of meanings studied in semantics and pragmatics

Weeks 4-5

Talking about things in the world; sense and reference.

Week 7-9

Talking about properties and actions; predicates and quantification

Week 10

Semantics and information structure; the common ground


Weeks 2-5

Tools for developing a theory of semantics; set theory and logic

Weeks 7-10

Topics in a theory of semantics; modality, possible worlds, plurality


Bringing it all together and revision

Teaching materials

  • Essential
    The main teaching in the module will be accompanied with a reading pack and lecture notes, which will be provided via the Virtual Learning Environment
  • Recommended
    The following textbook is optional; it covers a lot of the same material as the module but not in the same order, and sometimes has a difference in focus. Nonetheless, it can be very useful for understanding the concepts we are talking about.

    • Portner, P. (2005) What is Meaning? Fundamentals of Formal Semantics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Assessment and feedback

Assessment and feedback

Formative assessment

Submission of formative assessment will be required for progression to further modules in this strand. This will include exercises sets submitted during the term, as well as continuous formative work during backup groups, as well as formative tests available on the VLE. These will cover both technical skills (such as interpreting logical formulae) and application of concepts and theories learnt during the module.

Summative assessment

  • A set of exercises submitted in week 1 of spring term
    • Weight: 20%
  • A set of exercises submitted in week 1 of summer term
    • Weight: 20%
  • A 90 minute closed exam
    • Date: Term 3, Weeks 5-7
    • Weight: 60%

About this module

  • Module name
    Introduction to semantics
  • Course code
    L12C (LAN00012C)
  • Teacher
    Eytan Zweig
  • Term(s) taught
    All terms
  • Credits