nl en

Computational Semantics


Admission requirements

Syntax and semantics or computational linguistics at BA level. Programming skills are not required, but are an advantage.


This seminar focuses on the question how and to what extent the meaning of a sentence can be computed by means of grammar. Under which conditions can the meaning of a sentence be determined by finite calcaluations in a principled grammatical framework? The answer to this question is likely to shed light on two fundamental, yet quite distinct problems: (1) what kind of thing is the meaning of a sentence, and (2) is deep semantic analysis within the reach of natural language processing? The first question dwells in the no-man’s land between cognition, linguistics and mathematics. The second question amounts to: will Google ever be able to handle serious meaning?
In the seminar, these questions will be approached in two ways. We will scrutinize and evaluate the way in which the Leiden language machine Delilah deals with full semantic specification, on the base of Cremers, Hijzelendoorn and Reckman (2014). Furthermore, we will investigate ways of implementing distributional and semantic aspects of negative polarity in an operational grammar like Delilah’s.
The first approach seeks to explore the meaning of a sentence as a flat network of conjoined entailments. This object does not reflect the morpho-syntactic structure, although it has a compositional origin. All relevant aspects of this meaning representation will be debated.
The second approach to the central questions investigates how matters of (negative) polarity and (non-)veridicality can be built into a meaningful dynamic grammar such that both well-formedness and interpretability are served. Though the Delilah machine on Dutch, neither its semantic component nor the handling of polarity phenomena is restricted to phenomena in this language. (For those students who want to get acquinted with an actual computational device for meaningful parsing and generation, an operational version of Delilah is available.)

Course objectives

In this course, students are invited to develop well-founded insights in the relation between form and meaning. Students learn to analyze complex operational grammars, to tell technical matters from theoretical and philosophical issues and to reflect on the nature and properties of logical form. Students learn about the options and limits of grammatizing complex phenomena on the edge of form and meaning.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Seminar load: 28 hours
Literature load: 152 hours
Research and final paper load: 100 hours

Assessment method

Presentation of literature: 20%
Research paper: 80 %

Resit: students who fail the course may resit the research paper.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

C. Cremers, M. Hijzelendoorn and H. Reckman. Meaning versus Grammar. An Investigation into the Computability of Meaning and the Incompleteness of Grammar. LUP. 2014.
Papers on negation, veridicality and polarity, to be determined during the seminar


Enrolment in uSis is obligatory. If you have any questions, please contact the student administration, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs

Contact details

Master Linguistics student administration, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;