About this topic
Summary A semantics for a particular language L is a theory that maps each sentence of L onto its meaning, usually by having theorems of the appropriate form among its deductive consequences. It is standard (although controversial) to require an adequate semantics for L to be compositional – that is, to show how the meaning of each sentence of L is determined by the meanings of its basic lexical items and its syntactic structure. A central foundational question about semantics concerns its proper object of study: what features of an expression count as its semantic ones? One standard answer is that semantics should be “outward-looking” and concern itself with the word-world relational features of expressions, especially those that determine the truth-conditions of sentences. Another influential answer is that semantics should be “inward-looking” and concern itself with relationships between expressions and mental representations. Further important questions concern how linguistic meaning interacts with features of extra-linguistic context, how semantic and pragmatic phenomena are to be distinguished, and what role (if any) an adequate semantics for L should play in explaining the capacity of competent L-speakers to use and understand utterances in L.    
Key works See Davidson 1967, Soames 2009, Jackendoff 1990 and Higginbotham 1992 for important discussions of the proper object of study for semantics. Montague 1974 and Partee 1973 are crucial texts on the application of formal methods to the semantics of natural language. Devitt 2006 is a critical discussion on the role of semantic theory (and linguistics more generally) in explaining linguistic competence. Kaplan 1989 is a landmark treatment of context-sensitivity within semantic theory. Preyer & Peter 2007 and Szabó 2005 are valuable collections that discuss some of the controversies about the role of context in semantics and about how to distinguish semantics from pragmatics, respectively.
Introductions Good introductions to natural language semantics are Heim & Kratzer 1998, Larson & Segal 1995, and Chierchia & McConnell-Ginet 2000. Portner & Partee 2002 is a collection of important primary texts.
Related categories
Subcategories:History/traditions: Semantics

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  1. Dynamic Semantics.Karen S. Lewis - 2017 - Oxford Handbooks Online.
    This article focuses on foundational issues in dynamic and static semantics, specifically on what is conceptually at stake between the dynamic framework and the truth-conditional framework, and consequently what kinds of evidence support each framework. The article examines two questions. First, it explores the consequences of taking the proposition as central semantic notion as characteristic of static semantics, and argues that this is not as limiting in accounting for discourse dynamics as many think. Specifically, it explores what it means for (...)
  2. Assertions of Clarity & Raising Awareness.Phil Crone - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
  3. Empty-Set Effects in Quantifier Interpretation.Oliver Bott, Fabian Schlotterbeck & Udo Klein - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
  4. On the Supposed Connection Between Proper Names and Singular Thought.Rachel Goodman - 2018 - Synthese 195 (1):197-223.
    A thesis I call the name-based singular thought thesis is part of orthodoxy in contemporary philosophy of mind and language: it holds that taking part in communication involving a proper name puts one in a position to entertain singular thoughts about the name’s referent. I argue, first, that proponents of the NBT thesis have failed to explain the phenomenon of name-based singular thoughts, leaving it mysterious how name-use enables singular thoughts. Second, by outlining the reasoning that makes the NBT thesis (...)
  5. Wird Schon Stimmen! A Degree Operator Analysis of Schon.Malte Zimmermann - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
  6. How Projective is Projective Content? Gradience in Projectivity and At-Issueness.Judith Tonhauser, David I. Beaver & Judith Degen - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (3):495-542.
  7. The Anatomy of a Comparative Illusion.Alexis Wellwood, Roumyana Pancheva, Valentine Hacquard & Colin Phillips - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (3):543-583.
  8. On the Form and Interpretation of Echo Wh-Questions.Sigrid Beck & Marga Reis - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (3):369-408.
  9. A Uniform Semantics for Declarative and Interrogative Complements.Nadine Theiler, Floris Roelofsen & Maria Aloni - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (3):409-466.
  10. Introduction: Semantics and Philosophy.Maria Aloni, Franz Berto, Luca Incurvati & Floris Roelofsen - 2018 - Topoi 37 (3):355-356.
  11. Script Knowledge and the Felicity of Phase Particles in German Adjectival Passives.Matthias Irmer & Olav Mueller-Reichau - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
  12. Reasoning with ‘Some’.Bob van Tiel, Ira Noveck & Mikhail Kissine - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
  13. Independence Day?Matthew Mandelkern & Daniel Rothschild - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
    Two recent and influential papers, van Rooij 2007 and Lassiter 2012, propose solutions to the proviso problem that make central use of related notions of independence—qualitative in the first case, probabilistic in the second. We argue here that, if these solutions are to work, they must incorporate an implicit assumption about presupposition accommodation, namely that accommodation does not interfere with existing qualitative or probabilistic independencies. We show, however, that this assumption is implausible, as updating beliefs with conditional information does not (...)
  14. Mental Files, Concepts, and Bodies of Information.Poong Shil Lee - 2018 - Synthese 195 (8):3499-3518.
    In this paper, I argue that mental files are both concepts and bodies of information, against the existing views proposed by Fodor and Recanati. Fodor argues that mental files are not concepts but memories of information because concepts are mental symbols. However, Fodor’s argument against the identification of mental files with concepts fails. Recanati disagrees with Fodor and argues that mental files are concepts. But Recanati’s view does not differ essentially from Fodor’s because Recanati holds that mental files are simple (...)
  15. The Symmetry Problem: Current Theories and Prospects.Richard Breheny, Nathan Klinedinst, Jacopo Romoli & Yasutada Sudo - 2018 - Natural Language Semantics 26 (2):85-110.
    The structural approach to alternatives :669–690, 2007; Fox and Katzir in Nat Lang Semant 19:87–107, 2011; Katzir in Semantics, pragmatics and the case of scalar implicatures, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp 40–71, 2014) is the most developed attempt in the literature at solving the symmetry problem of scalar implicatures. Problematic data with indirect and particularised scalar implicatures have however been raised :249–270, 2015). To address these problems, Trinh and Haida proposed to augment the theory with the Atomicity Constraint. Here we show (...)
  16. Totally Between Subjectivity and Discourse. Exploring the Pragmatic Side of Intensification.Andrea Beltrama - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (2):219-261.
  17. Intonation and Sentence Type Conventions: Two Types of Rising Declaratives.Sunwoo Jeong - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (2):305-356.
  18. Dynamic Update Anaphora Logic: A Simple Analysis of Complex Anaphora.Ezra Keshet - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (2):263-303.
    An antecedent relationship may hold between an indefinite and a pronoun across non-quantified sentences (‘Jane bought a book. She read it immediately.‘), from the restrictor to the nuclear scope of a single quantified sentence (‘Every woman who bought a book read it immediately.‘; Geach 1962), and even across two quantified sentences (‘Every woman bought a book. Most read it immediately.‘; Sells 1985). First-generation dynamic semantic systems (Kamp 1981; Heim 1983; Groenendijk & Stokhof 1991) cannot handle anaphora across quantified sentences, but (...)
  19. Rigidity and Triviality.Fredrik Haraldsen - 2018 - Synthese 195 (5):1993-1999.
    Though it is often claimed that some general terms are rigid designators, it has turned out to be difficult to give a satisfying definition that avoids making all general terms rigid, and even if a non-rigid reading is available, makes that non-rigid reading matter. Several authors have attempted to develop examples that meet the trivialization challenge, with Martí and Martínez-Fernández providing what is, perhaps, the most convincing strategy. I show that the type of example Martí and Martínez-Fernández offer nevertheless fails (...)
  20. The Linguistic Illusion of Alterity: The Free Indirect as Paradigm of Discourse Representation.Monika Fludernik - 1995 - Diacritics 25 (4):89.
  21. Meaning What I It.Jesús Gerardo Martínez del Castillo - 2015 - International Journal of Language and Linguistics 3 (6-1):66-76.
    Meaning as the original function of language is the arrangement of internal things on the part of the creative and historical individual subject who speaks a particular language. Meaning constitutes the series of contents making up the linguistic world human subjects can manage real things with. Real things are not described with meanings but merely represented and designated. Meanings represent the essence of things thus making them members of a category. In this sense, meaning is the base to create things (...)
  22. C. Reinhard Hülsen, Zur Semantik Anaphorischer Pronomina. Untersuchungen Scholastischer & Moderner Theorien, Leiden-New York-Köln 1994, Xii + 470 S. ISBN 90 04098 321. [REVIEW]Dominik Perler - 1995 - Vivarium 33 (2):254-257.
  23. C. Reinhard Hülsen, Zur Semantik Anaphorischer Pronomina. Untersuchungen Scholastischer & Moderner Theorien, Leiden-New York-Köln 1994, Xii + 470 S. ISBN 90 04098 321. [REVIEW]Dominik Perler - 1995 - Vivarium 33 (2):254-257.
  24. C. Reinhard Hülsen, Zur Semantik Anaphorischer Pronomina. Untersuchungen Scholastischer & Moderner Theorien, Leiden-New York-Köln 1994, Xii + 470 S. ISBN 90 04098 321. [REVIEW]Dominik Perler - 1995 - Vivarium 33 (2):254-257.
  25. Illocutionary Revelations: Yucatec Maya Bakáan and the Typology of Miratives.Scott AnderBois - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (1):171-206.
  26. Determiners, Conservativity, Witnesses.Kai von Fintel & Edward L. Keenan - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (1):207-217.
  27. Discourse Semantics with Information Structure.Noortje J. Venhuizen, Johan Bos, Petra Hendriks & Harm Brouwer - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (1):127-169.
  28. The Scalar Inferences of Strong Scalar Terms Under Negative Quantifiers and Constraints on the Theory of Alternatives.Nicole Gotzner & Jacopo Romoli - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (1):95-126.
  29. Underspecification in Degree Operators.Guillaume Thomas - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (1):43-93.
  30. Projecting Possibilities in the Nominal Domain: Spanish Uno Cualquiera.Luis Alonso-Ovalle & Paula Menéndez-Benito - 2018 - Journal of Semantics 35 (1):1-41.
  31. C. Reinhard Hülsen, Zur Semantik Anaphorischer Pronomina. Untersuchungen Scholastischer & Moderner Theorien, Leiden-New York-Köln 1994, Xii + 470 S. ISBN 90 04098 321. [REVIEW]Dominik Perler - 1995 - Vivarium 33 (2):254-257.
  32. C. Reinhard Hülsen, Zur Semantik Anaphorischer Pronomina. Untersuchungen Scholastischer & Moderner Theorien, Leiden-New York-Köln 1994, Xii + 470 S. ISBN 90 04098 321. [REVIEW]Dominik Perler - 1995 - Vivarium 33 (2):254-257.
  33. C. Reinhard Hülsen, Zur Semantik Anaphorischer Pronomina. Untersuchungen Scholastischer & Moderner Theorien, Leiden-New York-Köln 1994, Xii + 470 S. ISBN 90 04098 321. [REVIEW]Dominik Perler - 1995 - Vivarium 33 (2):254-257.
  34. Now Published: Volume VIII, Number 42, May 2016. Includes an Article by the Disputatio Lecturer 2015, Jason Stanley. Admin - 2016 - Disputatio.
  35. Politeness in Pronouns.Klaas Bentein - 2017 - Philologus: Zeitschrift für Antike Literatur Und Ihre Rezeption 161 (2):256-267.
    Journal Name: Philologus Issue: Ahead of print.
  36. Modality, Weights and Inconsistent Premise Sets.Alex Silk - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (4):683-707.
  37. On The Indexicality of Portuguese Past Tenses.Marcelo Ferreira - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (4):633-657.
  38. No Delay for Some Inferences.Foppolo Francesca & Marelli Marco - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (4):659-681.
  39. The Logic of Intention Reports.Thomas Grano - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (4):587-632.
  40. Exclusive Particles in Ga.Renans Agata - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (4):555-585.
  41. The Semantics and Ontology of The Average American.Collins John - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (3):373-405.
  42. Dependent Indefinites: The View From Sign Language.Kuhn Jeremy - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (3):407-446.
  43. ONLY: An NPI-Licenser and NPI-Unlicenser.Yimei Xiang - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (3):447-481.
  44. A Generalised Framework for Modelling Granularity.Gyarmathy Zsófia - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (3):483-506.
  45. La filosofia della letteratura: un pregiudizio a favore della finzione.Wolfgang Andreas Huemer - 2017 - In Guido Ferraro & Antonio Santangelo (eds.), Finzione e realtà. Il senso degli eventi. Roma: Aracne. pp. 137-54.
  46. Experience and Value: A Contextualist Approach to Axiology.Field Richard W. - 1986 - Dissertation, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
    In this dissertation I offer a theory of intrinsic value based on contextualist principles drawn from the value theories of John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead. The point of departure for the argument is the contextualist view that the qualitative patters representing in experience objects of states of affairs to which we attribute values provide necessary, but not sufficient, conditions to elicit particular valuations, and ground the evaluative judgments we make. The sufficient conditions for valuation include a broader context of (...)
  47. Semantic Criteria of Correct Formalization.Timm Lampert - 2010 - In Proceedings of Gap Conference.
    This paper compares several models of formalization. It articulates criteria of correct formalization and identifies their problems. All of the discussed criteria are so called “semantic” criteria, which refer to the interpretation of logical formulas. However, as will be shown, different versions of an implicitly applied or explicitly stated criterion of correctness depend on different understandings of “interpretation” in this context.
  48. On the Connection Between Semantic Content and the Objects of Assertion.Una Stojnić - 2017 - Philosophical Topics 45 (2):163-179.
    The Rigidity Thesis states that no rigid term can have the same semantic content as a nonrigid one. Drawing on Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley rejects the thesis since it relies on an illicit identification of compositional semantic content and the content of assertion. I argue that Stanley’s critique of the Rigidity Thesis fails since it places constraints on assertoric content that cannot be satisfied by any plausible notion of content appropriately related to compositional semantic content. For similar reasons, I (...)
  49. Appropriate Slurs.Ralph DiFranco - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (3):371-384.
  50. Erratum To: The Descriptive Content of Names as Predicate Modifiers.Olga Poller - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (9):2361-2361.
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