Introduction to Dynamic Semantics

Advanced Core Training in Linguistics, University College London


This course will provide an introduction to the study of linguistic meaning through the lens of dynamic semantics - an approach to semantics developed primarily during the 80s by Irene Heim and Hans Kamp. The central claim of dynamic semantics is that the meaning of a sentence consists of a set of instructions for updating the common ground. As such, dynamic semantics emphasises the flow of information over the course of a discourse, as opposed to concentrating only the meaning of a sentence taken in isolation. Starting from some basic building blocks, we'll put together a version of dynamic semantics, and use it to analyse the behaviour of indefinites ("a dog"), definites ("the cat"), and pronouns ("they/"them"/"she"/"her" etc.). Time permitting, we'll also discuss the dynamic approach to presuppositions.

Tentative course schedule:


I'll assume a basic knowledge of set theory and first-order logic in this course. Elizabeth Coppock has put together a useful primer, which you can find online here.

Reference material

All reference material can be found here. More here soon.


Beaver, David I. 2001. Presupposition and assertion in dynamic semantics. (Studies in Logic, Language, and Information). Stanford, California: CSLI Publications ; FoLLI.

Chierchia, Gennaro. 1995. Dynamics of meaning: Anaphora, presupposition, and the theory of grammar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Groenendijk, Jeroen & Martin Stokhof. 1991. Dynamic predicate logic. Linguistics and Philosophy 14(1). 39–100. (28 February, 2018).

Heim, Irene Roswitha. 1982. The semantics of definite and indefinite noun phrases. PhD thesis.