LINGUIST List 6.1388
Tue Oct 10 1995
Sum: Semantics texts
Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <dizdartam2000.tamu.edu>
William Eggington, Sum: Semantics Texts
Message 1: Sum: Semantics Texts
Date: Mon, 09 Oct 1995 14:47:46 Sum: Semantics Texts
From: William Eggington <EGGINGTWBYUH.EDU>
Subject: Sum: Semantics Texts
Last week I sent out a request for information concerning suitable
semantics textbooks for undergraduate level students. Thanks to all
those who replied.
Steve Seegmiller provided a summary of responses to this list from a
similar request in June 1994. I have added the responses I received to
his summary. They are listed in alphabetical order by textbook author.
Respondent?s comments follow each listing. I have done a little editing.
Considering the types of students I will be teaching, I am leaning towards
either Hatch, Hoffman, Hurford and Heasley. Which leaves just two
questions -- why, after all these two sets of responses are all the
recommended texts written by authors whose last names are at the
front half of the alphabet? And what?s with the ?h?es?
Languages, Literature and Communications Division
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
Laie, Hawaii 96762
Ph (808) 293-3624
Fax (808) 293-3662
Recommended Undergraduate Semantics Texts
1. Keith Allan, Linguistic Meaning, 2 vols. Routledge and Kegan Paul,
Claudia Brugman finds this the most successful text for
undergraduate semantics that she has found. Its shortcomings are (1): it
is very light on formal semantics and almost as light on the topics
covered by formal semantics; (2) both volumes are necessary for a
complete class, which means that the students have a lot of reading and
that they have to buy two expensive books.
2. Allworth, Anderson, and Dahl's *Logic for Linguists* (Cambridge
U. Press) in conjunction with Emmon Bach's *Informal lectures on formal
semantics* (SUNY Press).
Steve Seegmiller suggests: The former is excellent but too brief
for an entire course. The latter (see below) is a set of lecture notes and
badly needs rewriting, but has a lot of good information in it and works
pretty well if you fill in the blanks. I know of nothing better.
3. Emmon Bach, Informal Lectures on Formal Semantics, SUNY
Nancy Goss used it for a short time in a course in which the main
text was Frawley's (see below). She found that three weeks was too
little time to cover formal semantics.
4. Ronnie Cann, Formal Semantics, Cambridge U. Press, 1993.
David Adger liked teaching from it, "although it has a billion
misprints," but his students found the course hard.
Steve Seegmiller found this text -- "to be a disaster because of
the huge number of errors. I think it would be at best a mediocre text
without any errors because it gets so caught up in the formalism that it
forgets to relate them to semantic problems. As it is, it is unusable.
Maybe Cambridge will issue a new edition, but I don't know."
5. Gennaro Chierchia and Sally McConnell-Ginet, Meaning and
Grammar, MIT Press, 1990.
Nancy Goss used it as an undergraduate at Cornell and found it
to be a good textbook.
Barbara Abbott recommends this text for higher level students.6.
William Frawley, Linguistic Semantics, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
Nancy Goss used it as a graduate student in a course that also
contained undergraduate students. She still consults it regularly for
basic information on semantic topics and relevant literature. It contains
no formal semantics.
Lynne Murphy suggest this is a suitable text for advanced
Recommended by Tim Clausner for a cognitive linguistics
Steve Seegmiller states: I have never tried it because I don't like
the approach, but some people like it.
7. Evelyn Hatch. 1992. Discourse and language education.
Cambridge Language Teaching Library. Cambridge University Press.
Mary Ellen Ryder states: I don't know about a straight lexical
semantics book, but if general semantic/ discourse topics like speech
acts, scripts, general information about communication constraints,
coherence, pragmatics, etc are important or useable, I recommend this
text. It's geared towards teachers (or _very_ advanced learners) of
ESL, but I found it quite appropriate for a bunch of English majors who
had one course in linguistics. It's pretty readable and has a lot of
interesting exercises for the students to try with real data.
8. Th. R. Hofmann (1993) Realms of meaning: an introduction to
semantics. London & New York: Longman. (ISBN 0 582 02886-8)
Lynne Murphy states this is a good text. It's totally a-formal and
does have some cross- linguistic commentary. Good for TESL-type
Patrick Griffiths offers the following assessment: This is a
339-page paperback written in a slightly idiosyncratic, but highly
accessible style. There are lots of discussion and quiz questions
throughout the text (with suggested answers at the end). He has plenty
of examples and some of them come from languages other than English,
including a fair number from Japanese. The book underplays theory, and
when I read the first chapter I thought that theory might be beyond the
author's ken, but in fact it later becomes clear that he knows quite a lot
of theory, but is keeping it in the background. Apart from accessibility,
the book's big virtue is that it presents lots and lots of descriptive detail
(mainly of English).
9. Hurford and Heasley, Semantics: A Coursebook.
David Adger was taught from it as an undergraduate and hated it,
but when he taught from it, his students really liked it, probably because
it's mainly taxonomic and fairly easy.
Rob French liked it and so did his students, since it covers a lot of
ground and is easy to supplement with material that goes deeper into
Lynne Murphy states I can't see how people use this as a
text--it's more of a self- teaching book to my mind.
Barbara Abbott responded that this text is pretty good. It's pitched
at a low level (I think for British first year students), but it's sound and
covers a lot of territory.
Rich Hirsch suggests this text in combination with F.R. Palmer
"Semantics" (second edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,
Adele Abrahamsen describes the text as: Short stretches of text
are followed by practice exercises and feedback; then another short
stretch of text, etc. The book seems to provide a relatively friendly
introduction to semantics, so if you like the content as well as the
pedagogical features you might decide to use it. Possibly you would
supplement this with some introductory readings on cognitive linguistics
(Lakoff, Langacker, etc.) or other more contemporary topics of your
10. Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by.
Chicago, Mass: University of Chicago Press.
Recommended by Tim Clausner for a Cognitive Linguistics
11. Geoffrey Leech's (1981) "Semantics: The study of meaning"
Apisak Pupipat states how this text is used in Thailand at a
graduate level, so it should be OK for undergraduates where Englishes
their first language. The good thing about it is that it covers, I think,
everything in semantics from the traditional sense & reference stuff to
the more current stuff like pragmatics.