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

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


Philosophers and logicians like Montague were central to the beginnings of formal semantics, but linguists have also played major roles in its development (as well as in raising challenges to some of its central tenets.) Logicians’ earlier descriptions of the logical structure of various natural language locutions indeed seemed linguistically unrealistic. It took the later work of linguists and linguistically more sophisticated philosophers and logicians to develop formal tools that offered a better fit with the structures that linguists ascribe to natural languages. A sample key moment: the Kamp-Heim theory of indefinites and donkey-anaphora (early 80’s) and the accompanying turn to “dynamic semantics”. I will include a few “personal vignettes” as I trace some of the important contributions of linguists and linguistically sophisticated philosophers to formal semantics and formal pragmatics for natural languages.

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.