Grammars pair sounds or gestures with meaning. In semantics we approach the theory of grammar from the side of meaning. What sorts of meanings does the grammar yield, and by what rules are these meanings assembled? Answering these questions involves us in others. What is the syntax, relative to which sound and meaning are paired? How do the meanings of expressions relate to acts of using expressions, and to various aspects of cognition, especially those deployed immediately in communication? And how does semantic knowledge develop in children? At Maryland we address these questions with theoretical and experimental research in a range of areas, including modality, tense, aspect, argument structure, causal constructions, comparatives, attitude reports, implicature, presupposition, reference, number, and quantification. Our work proceeds in close collaboration with colleagues in syntax, acquisition, and psycholinguistics. We have a special relation to the department of philosophy, with a long history of connections between the two, and Professor Williams appointed in both.
Many of our semantics students are members of PHLING, a graduate student research group comprising students from the departments of linguistics and philosophy. Maryland is among a group of departments that participate in MACSIM, the annual Mid-Atlantic Colloquium of Studies in Meaning.