Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Foundations and Methods of Natural Language Semantics

Duration: 2016 - 2019

Code: FFI2016-80636-P

Principal Investigator

Josep MaciĆ 

Other researchers

Mar Alloza  (PhD-student, Univ Barcelona)

André Bazzoni (Beatriu de Pinós postdoctoral Fellow, Univ Barcelona)

Adrian Briciu (West Univ. of Timisoara, Rumania)

Johan Gebo (PhD-student, Univ Barcelona)

Max Kölbel (Univ Vienna)

Neri Marsili (Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral fellow, Univ Barcelona)

Eduardo Martínez Zoroa (PhD-student, Univ Barcelona)
Andrei Moldovan (Univ Salamanca)
Daniel Morgan (Univ York)
Brian Pickel (Edinburgh)

David Rey (Univ. El Bosque, Colombia)

Isidora Stojanovic (CNRS/IJN Paris)
Stephan Torre (Aberdeen)
Dan Zeman (Univ Vienna)


Formal semantics (of natural languages) is a relatively young discipline that has become part of the academic canons in the last three or four decades. Since the founding period in the 1970s, there has been relatively little reflection on what exactly the object of study is, what the data or phenomena are that semantics aims to explain or predict and what methods can be legitimately employed in supporting semantic claims. From the mid-eighties onwards, there was a long period of scientific production in semantics that was relatively unbothered by methodological or foundational reflection. However, several recent debates -- e.g. on the role of context in semantics and pragmatics, on the delineation of semantics and pragmatics, on the dynamics of discourse, or on the syntax-semantics interface -- have made researchers aware that there are some discrepancies and unclarities regarding the theoretical aims and appropriate methods in semantics. Moreover, there has been increased foundational preoccupation, as is manifest in the explosion of recent lierature on the nature of propositions (see Schiffer, King, Jubien, Hofweber, Yablo, Soames, Hanks, etc).

The long-term aim to which this project aims to contribute is to clarify the objects of study of semantics, its explanatory aims, the data or phenomena that semantics aims to explain or predict as well as the methodology and status of semantics as an empirical science. The concrete objectives through which the project is meant to serve this aim are the following:

(i) Reach an improved understanding of classical (i.e. now historical) foundational debates such as those amongst Carnap, Quine, Lewis, Grice, Kaplan, Davidson, Chomsky, Evans etc.

(ii) Analyse the contemporary literature about foundational and methodological issues in semantics.

(iii) Put forward and defend several specific proposals that will contribute to the understanding of different important problems in semantics, and which, furthermore, will provide specific examples and evidence that will help in the work for objective (iv) .

(iv) Articulate foundational proposals about the methods and theoretical aims of NL semantics that might rationalize the scientific practice of some contemporary semanticists.


Workshop-I: Foundations and Methods of Natural Language Semantics. 29-30, June, 2017.

Workshop-II: Foundations and Methods of Natural Language Semantics. 22-24, November, 2018.