Professor Barbara Partee (Distinguished University Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy Emerita, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) is giving a series of three lectures (handouts here), generously supported by Dave Baggett.

This second lecture follows on the content of the first, but it is not for a general audience. Still it should be accessible to students as well as colleagues in linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, etc..


The history of formal semantics as described in Lecture I features quantifiers at several points. In this talk I’ll look more closely at crucial turning points in the history of semantics where quantifiers have played a major role. One example: the theory Chomsky described in his 1965 Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, where meaning was determined at Deep Structure and transformations were meaning-preserving, ushered in a brief “Garden of Eden” period; what led to expulsion from the Garden and to the Linguistic Wars was (oversimplifying only a bit) linguists’ discovery of quantifiers. I’ll describe this and a number of other crucial moments, some earlier and some later. The history of formal semantics is much more than the history of treatments of quantifiers, but their story is an important and fascinating chapter.

Partee, Barbara H. 2011. Formal semantics: Origins, issues, early impact. In Formal Semantics and Pragmatics. Discourse, Context, and Models. The Baltic Yearbook of Cognition, Logic, and Communication. Vol. 6 (2010), eds. B.H. Partee, M. Glanzberg and J. Skilters, 1-52. Manhattan, KS: New Prairie Press.