Crash course in compositional semantics

By Gregor Williamson

This course is designed for everyone, and no background knowledge is required! It will be ideal for syntacticians who don’t know much semantics, people who plan to take an advanced course in semantics, or linguists who just want to be able to follow a paper or talk which features lambda calculus.

Lectures will be held on Zoom from 16:00-18:00 every Thursday for 5 weeks starting from the 15th of October. Reading will be suggested but not required.

Problem sets will be provided after each lecture, and pre-recorded videos which walkthrough the answers will be released every Wednesday before the next class.


  1. Argument Structure and the Function Application rule
    • Truth Conditional semantics and the principle of compositionality
    • Functions and types
    • Lambda notation
    • (In)transitive verbs
  2. Modifiers and the Modification rule
    • Nouns
    • Adjectives
    • The definite determiner ‘the’
  3. Movement and Predicate Abstraction
    • wh-relative clauses
    • Free relatives and silent ‘the’
    • PRO and silent wh
    • Temporal relative clauses
  4. Quantifiers in subject position
    • Generalized Quantifiers
    • Quantificational Determiners 
  5. Scope ambiguities and quantifiers in object position
    • Quantifier raising
    • Scope ambiguities
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