"The Semantics of Natural Language(s)"

February 25, 2004

Tuesday, May 4, 1-2:30, LH 1
PLATO Royalty Lecture Series (1)
Free and open to the public
Campus parking $1.25

Abstract: This lecture provides an introduction to natural language semantics. Semantics is a branch of theoretical linguistics. To analyze any natural language (e.g., English), we must have a clear understanding of its structure at three different levels: phonology , syntax , and semantics . Phonology has to do with a language's sound structure; syntax studies the ways in which words are put together to form grammatical sentences; semantics deals with the interpretation of grammatical sentences. The primary task of the semanticist is to explain why it is possible to convey our thoughts by means of the words and the syntactic structure we actually use for this purpose. We must also pay attention to the fact that different languages often employ vastly different constructions to encode the same (type of) information. Though it is difficult, we strive to construct a semantic theory (as part of a linguistic theory) that accounts for diverse semantic phenomena across languages.

Biography: Toshiyuki Ogihara is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Washington. He obtained his M.A. in 1983 from Sophia University (Tokyo, Japan) and his Ph.D in 1989 from the University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in the formal semantics of natural language and is also interested in the syntax-semantics interface and Japanese linguistics. Before he came to Seattle, he held positions at the institute for natural language processing at the University of Stuttgart, Germany (1988-90) and at Tokyo Gakugei University (1990-91). Some of his papers are downloadable from his home page at:


Reading: Chapter 1, pp. 1-52, Meaning and Grammar: An Introduction to Semantics , 2nd edition, by Gennaro Chierchia and Sally McConnell-Ginet, The MIT Press, 2000, ISBN 0-262-53164-X. (This excerpt is on reserve in the library for those not enrolled in Algebra to Algorithms, Data to Information, or Student Originated Software .)