COGS 224
Introduction to Formal Linguistics Fall 2022
Division II Quantitative/Formal Reasoning
Cross-listed PHIL 221
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Class Details

The sentence “Every cookie is chocolate chip and three of them are oatmeal raisin” is a perfectly grammatical sentence of English, but it’s self-contradictory. What does it take to realize this fact? One must grasp the meanings of the various parts of the sentence. In particular, one must grasp that “three of them” picks out a subset of the group picked out by “every cookie”, and that there’s no such thing as a cookie that is both chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. There two ways to understand “Many students took every class”. According to one, there is a single group of students that had their hands extremely full this semester. According to the other, every class was well-populated, potentially by different groups. The reason for this is that there are two underlying structures that the original sentence can realize. This course serves as an introduction to formal methods in the scientific study of language. Our goal will be to characterize phenomena like those above with logical and mathematical precision. The focus will be on model-theoretic semantics, the sub-field of linguistics that studies meanings. Along the way we will discuss principles of syntax, the sub-field that studies sentence structures, and pragmatics, the sub-field that studies inferences of non-literal content. This is a formal course, but no prior logical or mathematical background will be expected. Starting from scratch, students will learn the building blocks of current-day linguistic research. This introduction will be of use to students interested in language from a variety of perspectives, including philosophy, cognitive science, and computer science.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 1957
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Weekly problem sets, plus a final project (paper/presentation/other type, to be discussed with instructor)
Prerequisites: No prerequisites
Enrollment Preferences: Preference given to seniors and philosophy/cognitive science majors.
Distributions: Division II Quantitative/Formal Reasoning
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PHIL 221 Division II COGS 224 Division II
QFR Notes: This course teaches the fundamentals of the formal analysis of language. Students will learn to provide translation schemes from English to a logical language (typed lambda calculus).
Attributes: COGS Interdepartmental Electives
COGS Related Courses
PHIL Contemp Metaphysics + Epistemology Courses

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