77959 - Semantics and Lexicon (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Course contents

The course offers a dynamic and integrated view of the mental lexicon, focusing on its internal architecture and on the main models of representation of lexical,morphological and semantic information.

The following general questions will be tackled:

  • What is the lexicon? What is the relationship between lexicon and grammar? And between lexicon on the one hand and morphology/syntax on the other?
  • What do we find in the lexicon? What is a lexical item?
  • How is the lexicon structured (relations, categories)?

After a general overview, we will address the following issues: (i) the notions of synonymy and competition between forms for the expression of meaning; (ii) the relationship between the lexicon and cross-linguistic variation through the lense of lexical typology; (iii) the notion of construction, intended as a complex sign, and the lexicon-syntax continuum. The course will end with a brief (optional) discussion group on constructions.

During the course, we will introduce some tools and computational resources for the investigation of the lexicon.

NOTA BENE – This is an advanced course in linguistics. A basic knowledge of general linguistics is required. Students who have no prior knowledge of the field are strongly advised to study an introductory linguistics textbook before the classes start (e.g. Graffi & Scalise 2013 or Berruto & Cerruti 2011).



Further readings

  • Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm (2008). Approaching lexical typology. In Martine Vanhove (ed.), From polysemy to semantic change: Towards a typology of lexical semantic associations, pp. 3-52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Aronoff, Mark (2016). Competition and the lexicon. In Annibale Elia, Claudio Iacobini & Miriam Voghera (eds.), Livelli di analisi e fenomeni di interfaccia, 39–52. Roma: Bulzoni.

Further readings on specific topics will be given during classes. All materials used during the course (slides, articles, etc.) are part of the readings for the oral exam for students who attend classes.

Extra reading for students who do not attend classes

Teaching methods

The course mainly consists in traditional lectures. All topics will be discussed with reference to data from different languages. An illustration of IT tools for the collection and analysis of relevant linguistic data will also be given.

NOTA BENE – The first part of the course will be taught online via Teams. Later, we will move to face-to-face lessons. Students will be informed in due time.

Assessment methods

The final oral exam aims at assessing the theoretical notions acquired by the students during the course, as well as their ability to tackle with specific questions and to analyze concrete cases of linguistic analysis. Students who don't attend classes should study one extra book for the oral exam (see bibliography). All students are kindly requested to inform the teacher about their attending classes or not at the beginning of the course.

As for the assessment, the ability of the students to give clearly expressed, correct and complete answers will be considered. Besides, clarity and argumentative rigor will be evaluated. Those students who demonstrate to have a global and harmonious knowledge of the subject and its specific language/terminology, to communicate ideas in a proper and clear way and to have acquired adequate analysis skills will get high grades. A partial knowledge of the subject and its specific language/terminology, an overall fair but not perfect way of communicating, and less refined analysis skills imply average grades. A limited knowledge of the subject and its specific language/terminology and poor communication and analysis skills imply low grades. Those students who prove to have an inadequate and/or insufficient knowledge of the subject (in both its theoretical and applied parts) and its specific language/terminology will fail the exam.

Teaching tools

PowerPoint presentations and/or printed handouts will support the lectures. Computational tools and web resources for data analysis will also be displayed through a projector.

All materials will be published on Insegnamenti Online every week and are part of the readings for the oral exam for students who attend classes.

Office hours

See the website of Francesca Masini