Introduction to Dynamic Semantics

Lecturer: Patrick D. Elliott
Time: 15:00-16:30
Room: G15, Chandler House

Course Website


This course will provide an introduction to the study of linguistic meaning through the lens of dynamic semantics — an approach to semantics developed primarily during the 80s by Irene Heim and Hans Kamp. The central claim of dynamic semantics is that the meaning of a sentence consists of a set of instructions for updating the common ground. As such, dynamic semantics emphasises the flow of information over the course of a discourse, as opposed to concentrating only the meaning of a sentence taken in isolation. Starting from some basic building blocks, we’ll put together a version of dynamic semantics, and use it to analyse the behaviour of indefinites (“a dog”), definites (“the cat”), and pronouns (“they/”them”/”she”/”her” etc.). Time permitting, we’ll also discuss the dynamic approach to presuppositions.

Tentative course schedule:

  • session 1:possible worlds and updates
  • session 2: discourse referents
  • session 3: donkey anaphora
  • session 4: presupposition
  • session 5: presupposition


I’ll assume a basic knowledge of set theory and first-order logic in this course. Elizabeth Coppock and put together a useful primer, which you can find online here.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close