Patrick D. Elliott

Introduction to Dynamic Semantics

25-29 June 2018


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 definites, indefinites , and pronouns. Time permitting, we’ll also discuss the dynamic approach to presuppositions.

Tentative course schedule (allowing for some slippage):

  • session 1: The formal semanticist’s toolkit
  • session 2: First order logic
  • session 3: Dynamic predicate logic
  • session 4: Predicate logic with anaphora
  • session 5: Presupposition


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.

Notes and Reference Material

Slides can be found here

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