PHIL 2075 The Semantics/ Pragmatics Distinction 2011

The Semantics/ Pragmatics Distinction

Course Instructor: Dr. Michael Johnson
Where: MB122 (Main Building)
When: 10:30-12:30
Course Website: here
Contact Email:

Course Description

In this class we’ll be concerned with the questions of whether one can draw a principled distinction between semantics and pragmatics and, if so, how to draw it.

Assignments and Grading

The course grade will rest on two assignments: one shorter mid-term paper and one longer final paper. The specifics are as follows:

Mid-term paper: 4-6 double spaced pages, 12pt reasonable font, with reasonable margins.
Total percentage of grade: 40%

Final paper: 7-10 double spaced pages, 12pt reasonable font, with reasonable margins.
Total percentage of grade: 60%

I am liable to increase your grade if you participate in class frequently (though not unnecessarily).

Policy on Late Assignments

The penalty for a late paper is 5 points (out of 100) per day (i.e. 24 hours) the paper is late.

Class Participation

You are required to ask any and all questions about the material that you have. Only your conscience will tell you whether you’ve met this requirement.


Be on-time, turn off your cell phones, don’t talk while other people are talking, stay awake, and in general accord everyone the minimum amount of decency they deserve as human beings. Including me.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is the act of presenting another’s writings or ideas as though they are your own writings or ideas, that is, presenting them without sufficient attribution.

This can include copying text from a book or from the internet and using this text in your papers without (a) acknowledging the original author of the text (b) quoting the copied portion and (c) providing a reference to the original source.

It can also include copying another students’ work, allowing another student to write some or all of your paper, or purchasing some or all of your paper from someone else.

Plagiarism is not limited to copying text word-for-word. It also includes copying text and modifying it by substituting synonymous expressions and making minor stylistic changes, when you have not indicated that the original text was not your own, and you have not cited the original author appropriately.

Finally, plagiarism can involve copying the ideas of another, even if you do not copy their words. This might include presenting someone else’s arguments, examples, or exposition as your own, without appropriately acknowledging them. It is OK if you have ideas that someone else had before; there are very few new ideas. What is not OK is if you take someone else’s ideas and present them as your own. Where the ideas came from is what matters. If you got the ideas from someone else, make sure to say so.

I will not tolerate any form of plagiarism in this course. Any student caught plagiarizing will receive a failing grade for the assignment, with no chance to appeal or to make up any of the assignments. This goes for everyone involved: any student who writes some or all of another student’s paper, or allows another student to copy off of his or her paper will also receive a failing grade for the assignment.

Under no circumstance will I suspend this rule for anyone or for any reason. If you are uncertain as to whether what you have written constitutes plagiarism, contact me and ask before you turn the assignment in. When in doubt, attribute, quote, and cite. And don’t let other students copy your work.

[Note: it is OK if you let another student proofread your work, help you with your English, or give you helpful comments and criticism that you incorporate into your paper. What’s important is that you make sure the ideas you are presenting are your ideas, and when they’re not you make that fact clear to me.]

Other forms of academic dishonesty will be dealt with at the instructor’s discretion.

Course Schedule

[Note: I will try as hard as I can to keep to the following course schedule, but I reserve the right to depart from it as necessary.]

Week 1 (1 September)

Topic: Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics
Reading for next class: Gary Hardegree, “Basic Categorial Semantics”
‘Admires’ problem from class
Notes on the Hardegree reading

Week 2 (8 September)

Topic: Compositional Semantics
Reading for next class: Peter Pagin & Dag Westerstahl, “Compositionality”
Notes on the Pagin and Westerstahl reading

Week 3 (15 September)

Topic: Compositionality
Reading for next class: Grice, “Logic and Conversation”
Notes on the Grice reading

Week 4 (22 September)

Topic: Gricean Pragmatics
Reading for next class: Larry Horn, “Implicature” [Sections 1-4, 7]
Notes on the Horn reading

Week 5 (29 September)

Class Canceled Due to Weather


Week 6 (6 October)

Topic: Neo-Gricean Pragmatics
Reading for next class: John Perry, “Thought without Representation”
Handed out Today: Sample paper topics for Mid-term

Week 7 (13 October)

Topic: Unarticulated Constituents
Reading for next class: Stephen Neale, “On Location” [selections]

Week 8 (20 October)

NO CLASS: Reading Week

Week 9 (4 November)

 Topic: The Isomorphism Thesis
Reading for next class: Robyn Carston, “Explicature”
Due Today: Mid-Term Paper

Week 10 (11 November)

 Topic: Relevance Theory and Explicature
Reading for next class: Jason Stanley, “Context and Logical Form”

Week 11 (18 November)

Topic: Hidden Variables

Week 12 (25 November)

Topic: Summary and Conclusion: Why does it all matter?
Due Today: Final Paper