E522 – Semantics, Pragmatics and Discourse

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Description: This course deals with a broad range of approaches to the study of meaning, especially as it is realized in written text.

Semantics treats meaning primarily as it is contained in words and sentences; it attempts to account for conventional and truth-conditional senses. Traditional definitional or lexicographic approaches may be used, as well as componential or network approaches. Idiom, metaphor, and other figurative uses of language may also be considered.

Pragmatics treats meaning as it is constructed by communicators under conditions of actual language use, largely by viewing meaning as arising from an interaction of literal or semantic factors with psycholinguistic processes of presupposition, inference, anaphora, and speech acts, as well as contextual factors represented in co-text, situation, and beliefs about the world.

Discourse study and textual analysis take extended text as the object of study and account for textuality through specific linguistic features such as reference and anaphora, verb tense, the use of modality, topical structure and density, and metadiscourse. More general notions of genre and task are also included.

Students will have opportunities to examine and apply these concepts in a variety of communicative settings–face-to-face verbal interactions, academic and non-academic written text, language use in specific professional contexts, literacy instruction, and second/foreign language learning. The course content will be grounded in appropriate examples from the professional literature and will be developed in practical applications based on those examples. Students will then be able to apply the concepts to their own professional interests.

Individual instructors will typically emphasize subsets of the above range of topics.