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Linguistic Applications of Mereology


Linguistic Applications of Mereology

Expressions like 'John and Mary' or 'the water in my cup' intuitively involve reference to collections of individuals or substances. The parthood relation between these collections and their components is not modeled in standard formal semantics of natural language, but it takes central stage in what is known as algebraic or mereological semantics. This course provides a gentle introduction into the mathematical framework of classical extensional mereology, and is designed to help students understand important issues in the following problem domains: plural, mass reference, measurement, aspect, and distributivity. In particular, the course will show how mereology sheds light on cross-categorial similarities between oppositions that pervade these domains, such as the count-mass, singular-plural, telic-atelic, and collective-distributive opposition. Students will encounter issues involving natural language metaphysics and philosophy of language, and how these issues interact with semantic theory depending on how they are resolved.

The course will be taught from a set of printed lecture notes. Printed copies will be made available for participants at the beginning of the course.

Course Status: Open

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Second two-week Session


Tuesday: 10:30 am-12:20 pm
Friday: 10:30 am-12:20 pm




Required: basic propositional and predicate logic; basic naïve set theory; ability to do simple mathematical proofs; undergraduate-level introduction to semantics 
Recommended: graduate-level introduction to semantics corresponding to chapters 1-6 of Heim and Kratzer (1998).