Event Semantics

Cleo Condoravdi and Christopher Pinon
Section: Language
Level: Introductory


Event semantics has its origins in Davidson's (1967) proposal that verbs have an extra "hidden" argument place for events. This idea has proven very fruitful in natural language semantics with a wide range of (often unexpected) consequences. Our aim in this course is to present a critical overview of how event semantics has been applied to the study of various semantic phenomena, pointing out results and problems, and addressing open questions.

Course Plan

Ontological and semantic motivations: arguments for events as concrete particulars, event mereology, subsorting of events, event structure. Events versus times, events versus situations, events versus facts, events versus propositions. Event-based versus reified-proposition-based theories for temporal reasoning.

Aspectual composition and generalized quantification: how the aspectual value of a sentence is derived from the aspectual values of its parts and how the standard generalized quantifiers can be analyzed in an event semantic framework. Reconstructing temporal properties of proposition types in terms of properties of event predicates and of thematic relations.

Adverbial modification: analysis of durative adverbials ("run for ten minutes"), time-span adverbials ("in ten minutes"), result state adverbials ("open the window for ten minutes"), manner adverbs with both a manner and a result reading ("he dressed beautifully").

Causation and event individuation: individuation by description, events as minimal situations, individuation by constitution. Complex events and the issue of persistence.


This course presupposes a basic background in formal semantics.


Xerox Palo Alto Research Center
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Seminar fuer Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft
Universitaet Duesseldorf
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40225 Duesseldorf
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