research group in formal semantics

@ UC Berkeley

Welcome to the home of the research group in formal semantics at UC Berkeley! We study meaning with the help of tools from logic and formal syntax, aiming to integrate the study of linguistic meaning, grammatical structure, and crosslinguistic variation.

On this site you can find out who we are, our current activities, our news, and our activities in previous semesters.


Shown at right: some RGFS members and former members in Barcelona for SuB!


In Fall 2018, we meet Fridays, 1pm, in Dwinelle 1229. Our focus is on mass/count.

  • November 2: Chierchia 2010, Mass nouns, vagueness and semantic variation [discussion led by Sven]
  • October 26: No meeting (CUSP)
  • October 19: Landman 2011, Count nouns, mass nouns, neat nouns, mess nouns [discussion led by Amy Rose]
  • October 12: Rothstein 2010, Counting and the mass/count distinction [discussion led by Amy Rose]
  • September 21: Barner and Snedecker 2005, Quantity judgments and individuation: evidence that mass nouns count [discussion led by Ginny] AND Schwarzschild 2011, Stubborn distributivity, multiparticipant nouns and the count/mass distinction [discussion led by Emily]
  • September 14: Chierchia 1998b, Plurality of mass nouns and the notion of 'semantic parameter' [discussion led by Amy Rose]
  • August 31: Krifka 1995, Common nouns: a contrastive analysis of Chinese and English [discussion led by Ginny]
  • August 24: Chierchia 1998a, Reference to kinds across languages


  • De se workshop. On Oct 11, we hosted a small workshop on pronouns and attitudes de se, building on our spring 2018 discussions and with the support of the Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study. Speakers were Pranav Anand (UCSC), Perspectives for Pronouns and Reflexives; Amy Rose Deal, A puzzle about reflexives of res-movement verbs; Pritty Patel-Grosz and Patrick Grosz (Oslo), The role of pronominal strength in interpretation; Peter Jenks, Weak pronouns and variable binding.
  • RGFS @ Sinn und Bedeutung 23! The Barcelona meeting of Sinn und Bedeutung featured four talks by RGFS members. Emily Clem presented Attributive adjectives in Tswefap: Vague predicates in a language with degrees (building on our fall 2017 topic); Virginia Dawson and Amy Rose Deal presented Third readings by semantic scope lowering: prolepsis in Tiwa (building on our spring 2018 topic); Amy Rose Deal and Vera Hohaus presented Vague predicates, crisp judgments (building on our fall 2017 topic); and Ruyue Agnes Bi and Peter Jenks presented Pronouns, radical pro-drop, and ellipsis in Mandarin.
  • RGFS @ SALT 28! The 2018 conference on Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT 28; MIT) featured an invited talk by Amy Rose Deal on a topic we discussed quite a bit in Spring 2018 -- de re reporting.
  • RGFS @ SULA 10! The 2018 meeting of Semantics of Under-Represented Languages in the Americas (SULA 10; Toronto) featured two RGFS talks. Both were on the topic of comparatives, building from our work together in Fall 2017. Julia Nee presented "Comparative Constructions in Teotitlan del Valle Zapotec". Amy Rose Deal (with Vera Hohaus, University of Tübingen) presented "Vague predicates, crisp judgments" (which does not say so in the title, but is about Nez Perce).
  • RGFS @ CLS 54! Emily Clem represented RGFS at this year's annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society (CLS 54). Emily's talk is entitled "Exceed-comparative languages and the Degree Abstraction Parameter", was presented in a special session on the semantics of modification.
  • RGFS @ ACAL 49! RGFS members brought two great formal semantics talks to this year's Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL 49; Michigan State). Emily Clem and Erik Hans Maier presented "Comparison in Tswefap: Evidence for Degree Abstraction in an Exceed-comparative Language". Virginia Dawson (with Hannah Sande, Berkeley PhD '17, now at Georgetown) presented "Counting mass nouns in Guébie (Kru)".
  • RGFS @ LSA 2018! Among the many Berkeley talks at this year's LSA annual meeting were several by RGFS participants. Tessa Scott and Emily Clem presented their work in syntax -- Tessa's on resumption in Swahili and Emily's on switch reference in Amahuaca. On the semantic side, Virginia Dawson presented "Individual nouns, substance nouns, and plurality in a classifier language" (the classifier language in question being Tiwa!).

Past activities

In Spring 2018, we met Mondays, 1pm, in Dwinelle 1303. Our focus for the first half of this semester was on attitude reports. For the second half of the semester, we interwove continued discussion of attitude reports with discussion and presentation of our ongoing work in progress.

  • April 23: Mass and count; plans for fall 2018
  • April 16: Sven Neth on 3rd readings AND Erik Hans Maier on Tswefap quantifiers
  • April 9: Virginia Dawson on disjunction in Tiwa AND Rachel Rudolph on copy-raising
  • April 2: Tyler Lemon on Vietnamese comparatives
  • March 19: Tessa Scott on temporal interpretation in Mam Mayan
  • March 12: Shifty indexicals without de se requirements
  • March 5: Anand and Nevins; de se via indexical shift
  • February 26: De se via binding; indexicals and contexts
  • February 19: no meeting [Presidents' Day]
  • February 12: Lewis 1979 on attitudes de dicto and de se
  • February 5: De re constructions in Nez Perce and Tiwa (Work in progress by Virginia Dawson, Amy Rose Deal)
  • January 29: De re constructions in Nez Perce (Work in progress by Amy Rose)
  • January 22: Schwager 2011 and the replacement principle

RGFS was inaugurated in Fall 2017. That semester we met Wednesdays, 2pm, until Oct 11; thereafter we met Mondays and Wednesdays both. Our topic was comparatives and degree constructions for the first half of the semester, and then attitudes for the second half.


  • Nov 27/29: Res movement; concept generators . Percus and Sauerland 2003, On the LFs of attitude reports
  • Nov 13/15/20: Problems for the scope theory of de re. Maier 2009, Presupposing acquaintance: a unified semantics for de dicto, de re and de se belief reports (pp 429-440)
  • Nov 6/8: Third readings. von Fintel and Heim, Intensional semantics lecture notes, ch 8
  • Oct 30/Nov 1: Russell's ambiguity; double indexing; TY2
  • Oct 23/25: Possibilities and propositions. Hintikka 1969, Semantics for propositional attitudes AND Heim and Kratzer ch 12

Comparatives and degree constructions:

  • Oct 16-18: Presentations on comparatives and degrees to 221 students
  • Oct 11: Bhatt and Takahashi 2011, Reduced and unreduced phrasal comparatives
  • Oct 4: Kennedy 2007, Modes of comparison AND Bochnak 2015, The degree semantics parameter and cross-linguistic variation
  • Sept 27: Beck et al 2009, Crosslinguistic variation in comparison constructions AND Bogal-Albritten 2015, Investigating gradable predicates, comparison, and degree constructions in underrepresented languages
  • Sept 20: Heim 1985, Notes on comparatives and related matters AND Heim 2000, Degree operators and scope
  • Sept 13: von Stechow 1984, Comparing semantic theories of comparison
  • August 30: Cresswell 1976, The semantics of degree
  • August 23: Klein 1980, A semantics for positive and comparative adjectives