PhD course: Word use and meaning: the morphology/pragmatics interface

This course will bring students up to date with recent developments in morphology and pragmatics and show how convergences between these two areas of linguistics are being explored in current work.


Word meaning is one of the least well-understood areas of language. Uses of lexical words express concepts, but there is considerable evidence from intuitions and experimental data that the meanings stored in the mental lexicon are much more schematic: in particular, they are neutral between the different senses of polysemous words. Anti-lexicalist views in morphology typically also postulate thin semantics: e.g. in Hagit Borer’s well-known framework, roots have no meaning at all. In recent publications Robyn Carston has argued that such roots provide the right foundation for theories of lexical pragmatics.

Assuming only general competence in linguistics, this course will bring students up to date with these developments in morphology, experimental and theoretical pragmatics and show them how the convergences described above are being explored in current work.

The following issues will be discussed:

  • Anti-lexicalist morphology
  • ‘Wrong format’ accounts of word meaning
  • The relationship between the linguistic features of lexical items and polysemy

Invited instructors

Professor Hagit Borer FBA, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Robyn Carston, University College London

Professor Georges Rey, University of Maryland



Dr. Nicholas Allott, UiO

Professor Terje Lohndal, NTNU & UiT

Dr. Ingrid Lossius Falkum, UiO


The course will consist of altogether 7 lectures. Allott and Lohndal, representing pragmatics and morphology, respectively, will outline what the core issues are across the disciplines that the course covers. In addition, Falkum, whose work is at the center of the topic for this course, will be giving a lecture. Furthermore, three external lecturers will be contributing lectures: Borer, Carston and Rey. Borer and Carston are world-leading experts on these topics. Rey is a renowned philosopher of mind and cognitive science. He has argued that linguistic theory indicates that we need to distinguish between what combinations of lexical items are allowed by the language faculty and questions of the truth and conceivability of the semantic structures thus constructed. He has worked extensively on related issues in a forthcoming monograph on Chomskyan linguistics, and it would be most beneficial for the students to have him present during the entire course.


Mon Aug 10

Tue Aug 11

Wed Aug 12


Nicholas Allott & Terje Lohndal

Hagit Borer

Robyn Carston




Robyn Carston

Georges Rey

Hagit Borer



Ingrid Falkum


There will be a course dinner on Day 2.

The course will be open for PhD students at Norwegian institutions as well as international PhD students. MA students are also welcome to attend even though they cannot take the course for credit.

A small number of stipends providing partial funding is available for international PhD students.

Requirements for 5 ECTS

  • Do readings before and during the course as assigned by the instructors.
  • Attend all lectures
  • Submit one research question in writing to the instructor after each lecture.
  • Write a 2000-word paper on a chosen topic following the course



The course is funded by LingPhil – The Norwegian Graduate Researcher School in Linguistics.

Published Mar. 2, 2020 11:10 AM - Last modified Aug. 2, 2022 2:49 PM