Tutorials: ‘Formal Semantics Beyond Spoken Language’ (New York University, May 24, 2014)

Summer school


New Frontiers: Formal Semantics Beyond Spoken Language

Tutorials, New York University, May 29, 2014 (in conjunction with SALT 2014)


Organized jointly by:

the ERC Advanced Grant Project ‘New Frontiers of Formal Semantics’ and by New York University



Methods of formal semantics have recently been extended beyond the realm of spoken language. These tutorials are intended to give a snapshot of two new research directions: The formal semantics of sign languages, and the formal semantics of pictures, gestures and diagrams. While the former direction pertains to human language and the latter doesn’t, we believe that researchers from these fields can benefit from each other’s work. First, it has long been established that sign languages share the general formal properties (phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic) of other human languages, and that they have a key role to play in studies of linguistic universals-which they sometimes illuminate in a new way due to the unique properties of the signed modality. But sign languages also have an iconic dimension which is only beginning to be captured in formal studies of meaning; some of the formal tools developed in research on pictures, gestures and diagrams might prove helpful in this endeavor. One key theoretical question lies in the relation between iconic and grammatical rules in sign language: Are they separate systems that happen to coexist in the same modality, or are they integrated within one unified system – and if so what does that tell us about Universal Grammar? Second, researchers on pictures, gestures and diagrams have emphasized the rich semantic content of these mediums, and they have sometimes attempted to devise logical systems to capture them. But sign languages have a considerably richer logical structure (at least as rich as that of spoken languages), one which undoubtedly has a gestural/pictorial/diagrammatic component – and which could thus serve as a useful point of comparison for these non-linguistic studies.


Organizers: .

Kathryn Davidson (Yale)

Itamar Kastner (New York University)

Jeremy Kuhn (New York University)

Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; New York University)




Part 1- Semantics of pictures, gestures and diagrams

Gabriel Greenberg (UCLA), Sun-Joo Shin (Yale), Matthew Stone (Rutgers)


Part 2- Sign Language Semantics

Kathryn Davidson (Yale), Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; NYU) and Jeremy Kuhn (NYU), Ann Senghas (Columbia), Ronnie Wilbur (Purdue)


Schedule and practical details:

See https://sites.google.com/site/semanticsbeyondspokenlanguage/



Attendance is free, but we request that you register on the Tutorials homepage, and indicate whether you will need ASL interpreting, and if so for which talks:


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