Semantic Theory is a core course of the Master of Science programme in Language Science and Technology (LST), taught at the department of Language Science and Technology at Saarland University.


This course focuses on the theoretical study of natural language meaning, with explicit links to practical applications. The first part of the course introduces sentence-level (Montague) semantics: starting out from first-order predicate logic and moving to (typed) lambda calculus. In the second part of the course, we zoom in to the level of lexical semantics, in particular focusing on verbs (event semantics) and quantified noun phrases (generalized quantifiers). We then move to discourse-level semantics: based on the framework of Discourse Representation Theory, we study discourse-level phenomena such as anaphora and presupposition. The final part of the courses is dedicated to recent advances in semantic theory: we discuss Distributional Formal Semantics, a formalism that extends formal semantics with a distributional component, providing compositional and probabilistic meaning representations that are also suitable for use in contemporary deep learning approaches.


Lecturers: Noortje Venhuizen and Harm Brouwer
Email: [noortjev/brouwer] at coli.uni-saarland dot de

Time: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10:15-11:45
Place:: Room -1.05 (C7.2, basement)
Start date: 13.04.2022 (Note: the first lecture will take place online, through MS Teams)

Format and Requirements:

  • The course will be taught in person (not hybrid), with digital support through MS Teams.
  • Exercise sheets will be made available after each lecture, and are due before the next lecture slot. During the exercise sessions, we will discuss questions about open exercises, and solutions to completed exercises in a Q&A style manner;
  • There will be an exam at the end of the semester (20.07.2022). Your grade for this exam will be your grade for the course;
  • To be admitted to the final exam, you may skip or fail at most one weekly exercise;
  • We strongly encourage active participation during all lectures and exercise sessions.

Prerequisites: Familiarity with first-order predicate logic. Specifically, we expect you to be familiar with the content described in the first two sections of this chapter: Logic in Action, Chapter 4 (Sections 4.1 & 4.2).

Registration: To register for this course, please send us an email and we will invite you to the MS Teams.


We will provide weekly additional reading material for each topic, which will be updated throughout the semester. Some important online resources:


Note that this is a preliminary schedule, which may change during the course of the semester. Tuesday and Wednesday sessions will be flexibly organized as lecture and/or exercise sessions, so we encourage participants to attend all sessions. All course materials (slides, reading material, exercises) will be made available through MS Teams.

Week 0

April 12: Orientation Meeting
April 13: Course introduction

Week 1

Reading Material: Logic in Action, Chapter 4 (Sec 4.5 & 4.6), Elements of Formal Semantics (Chapter 2)

April 19: Predicate Logic
April 20: Exercise session 1

Week 2

Reading material: Elements of Formal Semantics (Chapter 3: Part 1 & 2)

April 26: Type Theory: Intro
April 27: Type Theory: Interpretation

Week 3

Reading material: Elements of Formal Semantics (Chapter 3: Part 3)

May 3: Lambda Calculus
May 4: Exercise session 2

Week 4

May 10: Exercise session 3
May 11: Lexical Semantics

Week 5

Reading material: Lasersohn (2012): Event-Based Semantics

May 17: Event Semantics
May 18: Exercise session 4

Week 6

Reading material: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Generalized Quantifiers (Sec 1-5, 10, 13)

May 24: Generalized Quantifiers
May 25: Exercise session 5

Week 7

May 31: Exercise discussion
June 1: Dynamic Semantics

Week 8

Reading material: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Discourse Representation Theory (Sec 1-4)

June 7: Discourse Representation Theory
June 8: Exercise session 6

Week 9

Reading material: Van der Sandt (1992): Presupposition projection as anaphora resolution.

June 14: Presupposition
June 15: Exercise session 7

Week 10

June 21: Exercise discussion
June 22: Distributional Semantics

Week 11

Reading material: Venhuizen, Hendriks, Crocker, Brouwer (2021). Distributional Formal Semantics

June 28: Distributional Formal Semantics
June 29: Exercise session 8

Week 12

July 5: Current Issues in Semantic Theory
July 6: no class

Week 13

July 12: Exam Q&A
July 13: no class

Exam Week (July 18 - 22)

July 20: Exam (starts at 10 AM sharp!)