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Elements of Formal Semantics

An Introduction to the Mathematical Theory of Meaning in Natural Language

Yoad Winter

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Introduces the essential principles and techniques of formal semantics

In formal semantics, structure is treated as the essential ingredient in the creation of sentence meaning from individual word meaning. This book introduces some of the foundational concepts, principles and techniques in the formal semantics of natural language and outlines the mathematical principles that underlie linguistics meaning. Using English examples, Yoad Winter presents the most useful tools and concepts of formal semantics in an accessible style and includes a variety of practical exercises so that readers can learn to utilize these tools effectively. For readers with an elementary background in set theory and linguistics or with an interest in mathematical modelling, this fascinating study is an ideal introduction to natural language semantics. Designed as a quick yet thorough introduction to one of the most vibrant areas of research in modern linguistics today this volume reveals the beauty and elegance of the mathematical study of meaning.

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1: Introduction

2: Meaning and Form

3: Types and Meaning Composition

4: Quantified Noun Phrases

5: Long-Distance Meaning Relationships

6: Intensionality and Possible Worlds

7: Conclusion and further topics



About the Author

Yoad Winter is professor in Semantics and Artificial Intelligence at the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics at Utrecht University.


An excellent introduction to the subject, both as a textbook and as background reading for students who find themselves exposed to more advanced parts of semantics. I haven’t seen the foundations of formal semantics explained more clearly, more cleanly and more elegantly anywhere before.

Professor Hans Kamp, University of Stuttgart

- Professor Hans Kamp

Elements of Formal Semantics has several notable assets: it is formally careful and deliberate, as thorough as any logic textbook; it has a lot of varied and well-thought-out exercises (including practice exercises with solutions); a Conclusions chapter containing references on a number of phenomena (adjectives, definiteness, plurality, tense and aspect) students can extend the formal foundation to; and, at the end of each chapter, a Further Reading section that cites innovative, contemporary research articles as well as historical sources and other textbooks. As a result, it is a very versatile book, useful as a primary textbook, as a secondary textbook for more advanced or formally inclined students, or as a source of supplementary formal definitions and exercises.

- Jessica Rett, UCLA, Glossa

One of the major pros of this book is its wealth of exercises, many of which are supplied with solutions, at the end of each chapter. Some are technical and others are more advanced, and many of these are singled out as introducing new notions not addressed in the text.

- Journal of Logic Language and Information , Kjell Johan Sæbø, University of Oslo

Winter presents the semantics of language in a manner that practically shows that logic originates in language, and is not just applied to language. Due to this manner of presentation, the current book can be treated as a modern continuation of the book by van Fraassen [Formal Semantics and Logic, 1971]. Therefore, the current book is and will be interesting to students of logic, especially undergraduates in mathematical logic, alongside the students and researchers in linguistics who, probably, were the book's intended audience.

- Ioachim Mihai Drugus, MathSciNet

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