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Counting and measuring across languages and domains

  • Jeremy Kuhn, chargé de recherche au CNRS ( IJN )
  • David Nicolas, chargé de recherche au CNRS (TH) ( IJN )

    Cet enseignant est référent pour cette UE

S'il s'agit de l'enseignement principal d'un enseignant, le nom de celui-ci est indiqué en gras.

Mercredi de 12 h 30 à 14 h (salle L361, ENS, 24 rue Lhomond 75005 Paris), du 5 février 2020 au 13 mai 2020. Pas de séance les 18 mars et 15 avril

Brief course description:
In English, to specify a quantity of cats, we count them: "three cats". But to specify a quantity of water, we need to indicate a unit of measurement: "three liters of water". Although there are connections to pre-linguistic cognition, languages express counting and measuring in a wide variety of ways. For example, in French, it's fine to say "trois bagages", but in English, it would be strange to say "three luggages". In Mandarin Chinese and Korean, all nouns ("cat" as well as "water") require a classifier (analogous to a unit of measurement) in order to be quantified. What are the rules governing these categories and variations? In this course, we explore logico-semantic systems that explain these kinds of phenomena. Surprisingly, these systems can be extended beyond the nominal domain. We will discuss related phenomena for verbal aspect ("John ran for an hour") and collective predication ("All the students gathered in the hall").

Students should have already taken an introductory course in logic or in natural language semantics. If in doubt, contact the instructors.

Learning outcomes:
On successful completion of this course, students should notably be able to:
*Use mereological notions to characterize semantic properties of count nouns and mass nouns, telic and atelic verbs.
*Evaluate theories about mass and count by taking into consideration data from various languages.

Pedagogy, class organization and homework:
Classes are two-hours long, highly interactive. They are data driven: we present key data, discussing it with students; and then build the theory required to deal with it. To the extent possible, we take advantage of the languages spoken by the various participants. A typical class uses the previous homework as a starting point into the topic, discussing the homework for about half an hour. Questions and comments from students are actively encouraged. Additional readings are suggested but in most cases they are not mandatory.

Short homework assignments are assigned almost every week, building on the notions introduced in class. They are graded immediately before the next class. Questions may involve, for instance, characterizing a semantic property, proving a theorem, or exploring a generalization about certain linguistic data. 

*Take-home exercises (60%).
*A short (maximum 10 pages) research paper or critical review of a research paper (40%).

Textbook and readings:
The course does not have a textbook. Class notes are put online after class, as well as related readings.

Mots-clés : Langues, Linguistique, Sémantique,

Suivi et validation pour le master : Spécial : cf. le descriptif

Mentions & parcours :

Domaine de l'affiche : Linguistique, sémantique

Intitulés généraux :

Renseignements :

Duration : 1h30 per week, for 13 weeks. Beginning: February 5, 2020. End: May 13, 2020.

Credit: 3 ECTS.

Direction de travaux d'étudiants :

Validation :

  • 60%: take-home exercises
  • 40%: a short (maximum 10 pages) research paper or critical review of a research paper

Niveau requis :

Students should have already taken an introductory course in logic or in natural language semantics.

Site web : http://d.a.nicolas.free.fr

Site web : http://www.jeremykuhn.net/

Adresse(s) électronique(s) de contact : dnicolas(at)gmx.net, jeremy.d.kuhn(at)gmail.com

Dernière modification de cette fiche par le service des enseignements (sg12@ehess.fr) : 27 janvier 2020.

Contact : service des enseignements ✉ sg12@ehess.fr ☎ 01 49 54 23 17 ou 01 49 54 23 28
Réalisation : Direction des Systèmes d'Information
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