G61.3340 Seminar in Semantics / PHIL-GA 3004 Topics in Metaphysics: Spring 2014


Seminar in Semantics / Topics in Metaphysics : Minimal entities
Professor Lucas Champollion and Professor Kit Fine
T, 3:30PM – 5:30PM (plus a tutorial for registered students amounting to 45 minutes/week)
Place: NYU Dept. of Philosophy, 5 Washington Place, 2nd floor, seminar room 202
First day: Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Instructor: Lucas Champollion (champollion@nyu.edu) and Kit Fine (kit.fine@nyu.edu)
Units: 4

Dynamically updated syllabus: http://tinyurl.com/minimal-entities

Many phenomena studied in semantics and philosophy have been analyzed using minimal entities of various kinds: minimal verifiers, minimal models, minimal situations, bases of situations, events, principal filters of quantifiers, etc.

We will compare a number of these approaches with the aim to get a better understanding of common threads that run through their underlying design, through their formalizations, and through the phenomena they have been applied to. We'll consider both classical approaches (classical in the sense that they build on classical propositional or predicate logic) and nonclassical ones, and we'll look at a wide range of empirical phenomena.

We'll also consider philosophical and technical problems that affect applications of minimal entities in truthmaker semantics. Once we have a good grip on the nature of these problems, one of the goals of the seminar will be to study the extent to which they affect various applications of minimal entities in linguistics and philosophy, or can be circumvented.

Here is a non-minimal list of relevant authors, approaches and applications. This is a menu of possibilities. Depending on participants' interest, we may add to this list or subtract from it.

  • Katrin Schulz' use of minimal models for free choice permission, questions, and conditionals
  • Jeroen Groenendijk, Ivano Ciardelli, Floris Roelofsen and Salvador Mascarenhas's inquisitive logic and its application to disjunction, questions, and indefinites.
  • Philipp Koralus' and Salvador Mascarenhas' account of reasoning fallacies in terms of erotetic logic
  • Various competing approaches to modality and counterfactuals by David Lewis, Angelika Kratzer, Frank Veltman, Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Daniel Lassiter, and Kit Fine
  • Gennaro Chierchia, Danny Fox, Roni Katzir's and Benjamin Spector's structural accounts of implicatures
  • Sum individuals and principal filters in the competing analyses of collectivity and non-boolean effects of coordination by Godehard Link and Yoad Winter
  • Irene Heim and Paul Elbourne's uses of minimal situations in the analysis of E-type pronouns and donkey semantics
  • The minimal models in von Lambalgen and Hamm's semantics of events
  • Stephen Yablo's recent work on aboutness
  • Exhaustivity in the semantics of questions, focus, and quantifier particles, as discussed e.g. by Anna Szabolcsi in recent unpublished work
  • Manuscripts by the instructors on minimal vs. exact verifiers in truthmaker semantics (Fine), and on boolean coordination (Champollion)

Registered participants will be asked to:

  • lead one class discussion about a paper or topic, focusing on the formal system in it; and
  • write and present one paper, one conference-style 2-page abstract of that paper, and three short reviews of abstracts of fellow course participants. Submission of these abstracts to semantics conferences will be encouraged. The abstracts and project presentations will be in the last weeks of classes. The papers themselves will be due at the end of the summer break.

Auditors are welcome, as are students from other departments, schools, and universities. Auditors may join either for individual sessions or for the whole course. If you'd like to take this course or if you're planning to audit it, please send a short email to the instructors at champollion@nyu.edu and kit.fine@nyu.edu. Please include your NYU netID (if you have one) to be added to the course mailing list and to get access to the course materials.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on situations by Angelika Kratzer may serve as an introductory text (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/situations-semantics/).

This syllabus is subject to change. Comments, questions, and reading suggestions are welcome.


Alonso-Ovalle, Luis. "Counterfactuals, correlatives, and disjunction." Linguistics and Philosophy 32.2 (2009): 207-244.
Champollion, Lucas. "Man and woman: the last obstacle to boolean coordination." Proceedings of the 19th Amsterdam Colloquium.
Chierchia, Fox. "Spector. Scalar implicature as a grammatical phenomenon." Semantics: An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning 3 (2012): 2297-2331.
Ciardelli, Ivano, Jeroen Groenendijk, and Floris Roelofsen. "Inquisitive semantics: a new notion of meaning." Manuscript, submitted for publication (2012).
Ciardelli, Ivano. Inquisitive semantics as a truth-maker semantics. Manuscript, 2013.
Elbourne, Paul D. Situations and individuals. Vol. 90. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.
Fine, Kit. "Angellic content." Manuscript.
Fine, Kit. "A theory of truth-conditional content." Manuscript in two parts.
Fine, Kit. "Constructing the impossible." Manuscript.
Fine, Kit. "Counterfactuals without possible worlds." The Journal of Philosophy 109.3 (2012): 221-246.
Fine, Kit. "Permission and possible worlds." Manuscript.
Fine, Kit. "Truthmaker semantics for intuitionistic logic." Manuscript.
Groenendijk, Jeroen, and Floris Roelofsen. "Radical inquisitive semantics." Presented at the Colloquium of the Institute for Cognitive Science, University of Osnabrueck. 2010.
Heim, Irene. "E-type pronouns and donkey anaphora." Linguistics and philosophy 13.2 (1990): 137-177.
Koralus, Philipp, and Salvador Mascarenhas. "The Erotetic Theory of Reasoning." (2012).
Kratzer, Angelika. "Modality." Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research (1991): 639-650.
Kratzer, Angelika. "Scalar implicatures: Are there any." Talk given at the Workshop on Polarity, Scalar Phenomena, and Implicatures, University of Milan-Bicocca. 2003.
Kratzer, Angelika, "Situations in Natural Language Semantics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/situations-semantics/.
Lambalgen, Michiel van, and Fritz Hamm. The proper treatment of events. Vol. 6. Wiley. 2008.
Lassiter, Daniel. "Measurement and modality: The scalar basis of modal semantics." New York: New York University dissertation (2011).
Liefke, Kristina. "A single-type semantics for the PTQ fragment." To appear in Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 18, 2013.
Link, Godehard. Algebraic semantics in language and philosophy. Stanford: CSLI publications, 1998.
MacBride, Fraser, "Truthmakers", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/truthmakers/.
McCarthy, J. (1980), ‘Circumscription - a form of non-monotonic reasoning’, Artificial Intelligence, 13: 27-39.
McCarthy, J. (1986), ‘Applications of circumscription to formalizing common sense knowledge’, Artificial Intelligence, 28: 89-116
Reiter, Raymond. "A logic for default reasoning." Artificial intelligence 13.1 (1980): 81-132.
Sauerland, Uli. "Scalar implicatures in complex sentences." Linguistics and Philosophy 27.3 (2004): 367-391.
Schulz, Katrin. Minimal models in semantics and pragmatics: Free choice, exhaustivity, and conditionals. Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, 2007.
Schulz, Katrin, and Robert Van Rooij. "Pragmatic meaning and non-monotonic reasoning: The case of exhaustive interpretation." Linguistics and Philosophy 29.2 (2006): 205-250.
Szabolcsi, Anna. "What do quantifier particles do?" Manuscript, 2013.
Veltman, Frank. "Making counterfactual assumptions." Journal of Semantics 22.2 (2005): 159-180.
Yablo, Stephen. Aboutness. Princeton University Press, 2013.
Zweig, Eytan. "Number-neutral bare plurals and the multiplicity implicature". Linguistics and Philosophy 32 (2009): 353-407.

Updated on 01/17/2014
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