Crash Course Linguistics 5 (Semantics)

What is meaning?

Week 5’s Crash Course Linguistics video helps viewers understand what it means for a word to mean something.

Topics include the problems with approaching meaning through only dictionary definitions, prototype theory, and predicate calculus. This week's Thought Bubble takes viewers to an imaginary sandwich shop to explore the difficulty of trying to come up with a definition of “sandwich.” Closed captions are available in English.

For a more thorough explanation of semantic scope ambiguity, which is briefly touched on in the Crash Course Linguistics video, take a look at Scoping Out the Truth from The Ling Space. This 9-minute video has closed captions available in English, and the link above includes a brief written summary of the video as well as additional materials.

For an approachable discussion about one very specific type of meaning, evidentiality, check out the 33-minute Lingthusiasm episode You heard about it but I was there. This episode is available wherever you prefer to find podcasts, and a transcript is available here.

Colourless green ideas, a practice problem from the United Kingdom Linguistics Olympiad, offers direct experience in distinguishing grammatical (syntactic) incorrectness from semantic incorrectness. Answers and helpful prompts for instructors are available at the end of the linked file.

Coming next week: resources about pragmatics!

Liz, Gretchen, and Lauren

About Mutual Intelligibility

Mutual Intelligibility is a project to connect linguistics instructors with online resources, especially as so much teaching is shifting quickly online due to current events. It's produced by Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch, with the support of our patrons on Lingthusiasm. Our editor is Liz McCullough.

Mutual Intelligibility posts will always remain free, but if you have a stable income and find that they’re reducing your stress and saving you time, we're able to fund these because of the Lingthusiasm Patreon and your contributions there

For the 16 weeks of Crash Course Linguistics, Mutual Intelligibility will be sharing the video weekly, along with supporting resources. We will resume our regular link request and recommendations after the Crash Course Linguistics series. For more on how we usually operate, check out our about page.

If you have other comments, suggestions, or ideas of ways to help, please email mutual.intellig@gmail.com.