Yoad Winter
 main page
 talks & papers

Elements of Formal Semantics

Yoad Winter 
Edinburgh University Press, 2016 
   Chapters 1-3                       Amazon  EUP                     ESSLLI 2022 course

This textbook introduces the foundational concepts, principles and techniques in formal semantics of natural language. The book is intended for readers who have some elementary background in set theory and linguistics, but does not assume any expertise in logic, math, or theoretical linguistics. By way of analyzing concrete English examples, the book brings central concepts and tools to the forefront, calling attention to the beauty of the mathematical principles underlying linguistic meanings. 

From teachers who used this book:
 I haven’t seen the foundations of formal semantics explained more clearly, more cleanly and more elegantly anywhere before.

    Hans Kamp, University of Stuttgart and The University of Texas at Austin

I very much like the book's content and style. An excellent core text for linguists for about 9 weeks of a 14-week semester. In my course it proved most useful after I gave students some logic background,and it provided a good basis for branching out into further topics of current interest in formal semantics in the end.
Anna Szabolcsi, New York University

 This book offers a thorough grounding to beginners in formal semantics, suitable for one-semester courses. It is pedagogically well-crafted, with clear and detailed explanations and many exercises.
    Lawrence S. Moss, Indiana University, Bloomington

From reviews:
A clear, readable, and most useful introduction to formal semantics of natural language—both the semantics part and the mathematical formulation.
    Edward L. Keenan, University of California, Los Angeles
      Journal of Logic, Language and Information, 16 Nov. 2017 - full review

A very versatile book, useful as a primary textbook, as a secondary textbook for more advanced or formally inclined students, or as a source of supplementary formal definitions and exercises.  
    Jessica Rett, University of California, Los Angeles
       Glossa, 20 Oct. 2016 - full review

Winter presents the semantics of language in a manner that shows that logic originates in language, and is not just "applied to language". This book can be treated as a modern continuation of Formal semantics and Logic by B. C. van Fraassen.
    Ioachim Mihai Drugus, Academy of Sciences, Moldova 
      MathSciNet, 2018 - full review

Clear, precise, and friendly introduction to formal natural language semantics for students with mathematical maturity. An excellent text for courses on natural language meaning and related topics in computer science, artificial intelligence, or philosophy.
    Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine, National University of Singapore 
      Computational Linguistics, 26 Jan. 2017 - full review

There are topics that are treated more accurately and systematically here than anywhere else. But as I see it, there are also topics and ways to treat them that suffer, sometimes unnecessarily, and some chances that are missed.
    Kjell Johan Sæbø, University of Oslo
      Journal of Logic, Language and Information, 23 Feb. 2017 - full review

Precise, clear, and admirably brief. While not too technical, it employs a fairly high level of mathematical abstraction, and will probably be tough going for students who are not accustomed to this. However, it will be very informative and useful for those who are.
    Daniel Lassiter, Stanford University
Journal of Linguistics, 15 Aug. 2017 - full review


To receive updates about supplementary materials and other EFS-related issues, you can subscribe to the mailing list below. 

E-mail address:
Subscribe Unsubscribe
book webpage at publisher site

Table of contents

All open access materials in one file  Chapters 1-3 Open Access


Click on chapter to download PDF: 
  1 Introduction  Chapters 1-3 Open Access 

2 Meaning and Form  Chapters 1-3 Open Access 

3 Types and Meaning Composition Chapters 1-3 Open Access 

4 Noun Phrases and Quantifiers 

5 Long-Distance Meaning Relationships 

6 Intensionality and Possible Worlds

7Conclusion and further topics