Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Formal Foundations for Linguistics

UM LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DEPARTMENT Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology

DESCRIPTION Learning Objectives

An understanding of modern linguistics requires a basic knowledge of formalisms which often lie at the basis of the formulation of grammatical models. Such formalisms are also fundamental for a proper understanding of the analytical techniques used in formal semantics.
The aim of this study-unit is to familiarise students with some simple, basic concepts and systems which will then help them to better understand various models of grammar.

Content Covered

The study-unit covers the following areas:

1. Set theory: Students will be introduced to the concept of a set and the different ways it can be described. Basic operations on sets will be described, including intersection, union and complementation. This part of the study-unit will conclude with an introduction to relations and functions.
2. Propositional and predicate logic: This part of the study-unit will introduce students to classical propositional logic, especially the logical connectives and their meaning. In addition, a basic introduction to predicate logic will be provided.
3. Graphs and trees: These will be introduced as a knowledge-representation formalism used to impose structure on a set of relevant phenomena, by making explicit the relationships between them. Particular emphasis will be laid on the use of tree structures for syntactic description.
4. Feature structures and unification: These are introduced as a special kind of graph, which is useful for the description of morpho-syntactic and semantic phenomena within certain theories of grammar.

The concepts discussed are applied to relevant linguistic data and accompanied by intensive practical tasks. These will often take the form of “games” in which participants will be required to bring to bear their knowledge of the relevant formalism to solve particular problems.

Reading List

- Allwood, J., A. Lars-Gunar Andersson & Ö. Dahl (1977) Logic in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
- Partee, B.H., ter Meulen, A., and Wall, R. (1990). Mathematical methods in linguistics. Dordrecht: Kluwer

Further reading

- Jurafsky, D., and Martin, J. H. (2000). “Features and Unification”. Chapter 11 in: Speech and Language Processing. NJ: Prentice-Hall.


Assessment Component/s Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 100%

Stavros Assimakopoulos


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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2022/3. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.