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Computational Linguistics Program

Linguistics 795

Lexical Semantics Syllabus

    Course Description


    This course will serve as an introduction to pragmatics.


    Readings, assignments, student presentations, final paper.


    Assignments 0 %
    Classroom prep 15 %
    Paper 65 %
    Presentation 20 %


    Come to class prepared, with your readings and assignments completed. Although assignments are not an explicit part of the grade, they will be discussed carefully in class, and students need to be prepared with reasonable answers that reflect the course material. Readings work very much the same way. Students will be expected to able to discuss the content of the readings. Difficulty of the material will be taken into account, but failure to read it will not. "I read this, but I didn't understand a thing," is a far less compelling defense than "I read this, and here specifically is what I don't understand." Come in with questions, observations, counterexamples, and criticisms, all tied to the specific reading.

    Participation is not voluntary. Everyone in class will be called on and everyone will will be expected to know what the readings contain. We will explore the difficulties of these readings together, and we will be responsible for each other's education. Don't let your classmates (and me) down.


    A large part of your grade will be based on a paper.

    Although your paper should be data-based, the topic of the paper must be directly relevant to issues covered in the class. Recycled papers will not be tolerated. Papers will go through two preliminary stages of development:

    1. Topic and data choice
    2. Paper template (including review of literature), both of which are described on pages linked to from the class outline.
    This will give you ample opportunity to enrich the material, and to draw out connections with other issues and work.

    Each student will be responsible for a presentation.

    There are two options for you your presentation: (a) a presentation may be on an assigned reading, or (b) a presentation may be on a paper related to your chosen paper topic. Option (b) presentations must be approved by me, and you must give the class advance notice of at least two weeks, specifying the paper and the content. For example, to give an option (b) presentation on April 4, you would secure approval from me sometime before class on March 21, and announce the paper in class on March 21.

    Your job as presenter is to facilitate discussion of a paper. But you are in charge, and you are responsible for making sure discussion happens. Therefore, don't raise issues you have nothing to say about. Helpful hint one: don't raise questions not relevant to the paper at hand, since no one will be prepared to discuss them, and I may close discussion on off-topic questions. Note that discussion threads that relate the papers to other papers we have read will be particularly valued. Helpful hint two: most of our assigned papers discuss examples in some detail. Examining the assumptions and claims of those data-oriented discussions is a great place to steer class discussion. Hint three: You should spend a few minutes (and no more than a few minutes!) summarizing the paper at the beginning of your presentation.


    So the bad news is that attendance will be taken. It is impossible for attendance not to matter if class contribution does, since we do not want someone skipping class whenever they haven't completed that week's assigned reading, with no penalty. You may miss two class sessions with no penalty, after which you will be given exactly the same 0 grade that someone receives if they reveal they haven't done the reading.


    Literal meaning. Truth conditions. Semantic Components. Semantic universals. Lexical Decomposition. Lexical Aspect. Classifiers. Singular/Plural. Valence. Distributional semantics.

    Course outline



    Mon 4:00-6:40
    SH 221

    Mailing address:
    Department of Linguistics and Oriental Languages
    San Diego State University
    5500 Campanile Drive
    San Diego, CA 92182-7727
    Telephone: (619) 594-0252
    Office location: Storm West, room 238
    Office hours: Tu 3:30- 4:30 Th 9:30-10:30 TuTh 12:30-1:30