Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

Hans Kamp

ProfessorPhD, University of California at Los Angeles

Visiting Professor



Language and Thought, Philosophy of Language (Propositional Attitudes)


Professor Kamp's work focuses on the question how human beings represent meaning and how those representations enable them to do the various things that they do with information. The founder of Discourse Representation Theory, and a leading figure in logic, linguistics, and the philosophy of language, Professor Kamp has written articles on tense logic, adjectives, vagueness, free choice permission, attitudes, and semantic representation that are considered classics in their areas. He is the author of From Discourse to Logic (Kluwer, with Uwe Reyle) and Thinking and Talking about Things (MIT Press).


PHL 391 • Semantics II

42184 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 2.122
(also listed as LIN 381S)

The central purpose of this course is to explore details of the ‘syntax=semantics interface’ (i.e. the way in which meaning is determined by syntactic form). The course places a strong emphasis on tense and aspect, and on various types of presupposition (in addition to a core of constructions expressing reference, predication and quantification).Beyond this, the direction of the course is kept flexible, in order to meet special interests of the participants. (Among the topics discussed on previous occasions: modality; propositional attitudes; conditionals; adjectives and vagueness; plurals and generalized quantifiers.)

The general method followed in the course is that of constructing ‘logical forms’ from syntactic analyses, in the spirit of Discourse Representation Theory. (The logical forms we will construct are Discourse Representation Structures.)The primary focus will be on English.

Grading Policy:

One essay of ca 3000 words + no more than six graded homework assignments. 


We will be using class notes that have been developed during the previous times this course was taught in the course of the past five years (and that we are currently in the process of turning into a monograph). Additional papers will be made available to the participants if and when necessary.

PHL 365 • Times And Events

43430 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm GAR 2.112
(also listed as CGS 360, LIN 350)

Times and Events can be discussed from very different perspectives:

  1. From the perspective of Natural Science: What are time and events like according to natural sciences such as, in particular, physics.

  2. From the perspective of Linguistics and Psychology: How do we think about time and events and how do we talk about them?

This course is sponsored by the Linguistics Department. So the emphasis will be on the ways in which times and events are talked about in the languages we speak.

But we will find that this issue cannot really be discussed if we do not also take into account how we think of time and of events – how we represent them in thought.

However, since we think of time and events as existing independently of us, it is important to also to look at least briefly about what Natural Science has to say about them. And that is what this course will start with. Natural Science-based views of times

and events will occupy us for the first two or three times we meet. After that we will turn to Times and Events in language and thought.

PHL 391 • Semantics II

43545 • Spring 2014
Meets W 1200pm-300pm WAG 312
(also listed as LIN 381S)

The course will focus on a range of central topics in the semantics of natural language. The use of formal methods will be important, but only in response to the linguistic problems as they present themselves to us and as we then come to understand them when looking at them more closely. The general topics to be considered in the class are (subject to modifications in response to participants’ requests): 1. Quantifiers and Quantification; Count Nouns and Mass Nouns; Plural and Singular. 2. Tense and Aspect 3. Presupposition 4. Intensionality, Modality and Propositional Attitudes (5. Information Structure) Each of these areas will presumably take three weeks or more. We may not be able to get to topic 5. Course grades will be assigned on the basis of points (to a maximum of 100) that are to be obtained as follows: i. Four graded home works at max. 10 points each. ii. Midterm exam. Max. 20 points iii. Term paper or final exam. Max. 40 points (Since this is a graduate seminar, writing a term paper is strongly recommended.)

Graduate standing and consent of graduate adviser or instructor required.


PHL 365 • Times And Events

42790 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm GAR 2.112
(also listed as CGS 360, LIN 350)

This course is about the nature of time, as an essential part of the world in which we live and as it manifests itself in how we think and speak. The emphasis will be on time in language and thought, as this course is targeted in particular at people with an interest in linguistics or Cognitive Science. Philosophical questions about time will play an important part as well.


Time has been the topic of philosophical speculation and scientific exploration since antiquity. But its role in language and thought has only become a topic of serious investigation much more recently.  Over the past fifty years our understanding of topic has evolved dramatically, but many issues are still unresolved, and quit a few of them continue to be hotly debated.


The course will present a range of issues about time that have preoccupied philosophers, linguists, cognitive scientists and psychologists. It will trace the development of theories about these matters over the course of the past century. And for some of the questions that are still open we will explore our own answers.


(Personal note: I have lived through a good part of the recent history of this subject, it has played an important part in my thinking about all sorts of things and my thinking about many things has changed a great deal as time and work on time went on. So time has meant a great deal in my life and I am really excited about the opportunity to share my fascination with this subject with you.)


The course will draw on a variety of texts. We will make substantial use of Mani, Pustejovski & Gaizauskas (eds.) ‘The Language of Time’


Requirements for getting a grade: (i) an short essay of about 1000 words due after spring break and (ii) an essay of about 3000 words due on finals day.

PHL 391 • Definiteness

42892 • Spring 2013
Meets W 1200pm-300pm WAG 312
(also listed as LIN 393S)


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

In modern times the distinction between definite and indefinite noun phrases came to prominence when Russell(1905) proposed that both definite and indefinite descriptions were quantifiers, opposing the Fregean position according to which indefinite descriptions were quantifiers, but definite descriptions were terms. In the middle of the 20-th century Strawson(1950) returned to a position much like Frege’s. Then, around 1980, theories emerged, according to which indefinite descriptions function, like definite descriptions, essentially as terms. This sets the two of them apart from ‘true’ quantifying phrases such as ‘every F’ or ‘most Fs’. With this proposal came a different way of explaining the difference between definite and indefinite phrases: indefinites signal ‘novelty’ and definites ‘familiarity’ (Heim(1982)). Since the eighties much work has been done to flesh out these proposals; this work has reinforced the view that definite descriptions are just one among several categories of definite noun phrases – together with pronouns, demonstratives and proper names. Each of these categories manifests ‘familiarity’ in its own way and the challenge is to articulate exactly what these different ways are.

From a more philosophical perspective a central question about definiteness is what it is that enables us to refer in thought and language to particular things. (A classic treatment is Evans(1982).) Because of these ramifications questions about definiteness are closely connected with fundamental issues about the nature of meaning, reference, predication and truth and about the form and limits of semantic theory.

The seminar will focus primarily on recent work on definiteness, including some unpublished work of the instructors.


Grades will be based on one short paper, one longer paper, and in-class presentations.


Individual articles will be made available as needed.

PHL 332 • Philosophy Of Language-Phl Maj

42550 • Spring 2012
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm GAR 0.120

The course focuses on various philosophical issues concerning language. Topics to be discussed include, but are not limited to, the following: speaker-meaning, conversational implicature, sentence/expression-meaning, reference, modality, and propositional attitude ascriptions. 

PHL 391 • Semantics II

42745 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 1.104
(also listed as LIN 381S)




PHL 380 • Representatn In Lang & Thought

43185 • Spring 2011
Meets M 330pm-630pm WAG 312
(also listed as LIN 383)


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.


When I asked people in the spring of 2010 what they thought might be a useful thing for me to teach the following spring, one suggestion was that I should offer a course on Discourse Representation Theory. On the one hand that was a suggestion I was glad to take on. But on the other I was reluctant to announce a course under that title, as I was afraid people would think that the course would be an exercise in natural language semantics, more suited to a linguistics than to a philosophy department.

But one of the motivations that led to DRT in the first place was "squarely philosophical: When people understand something they hear or read, they form a representation of its content. These representations are (of course) systematically related to the linguistic input that leads to them, but they have their own structural properties. The analysis that DRT offers of semantic processing suggests what some of these properties are. Assumptions about what these properties are - and thus assumptions about the structure of mental representations of content - have been amplified over the years and led to a separate component of DRT.

The current picture of mental representation that has emerged this way has implications for a range of notions and problems that fit squarely within the current philosophical agenda: reference, content and meaning; reasoning and planning; the interaction between language and other cognitive capacities; the nature of verbal communication; and, last but not least, the semantics of attitude reports.

The implications for reference in thought and language and the role of `referential terms' (definite and indefinite noun phrases) in attitude reports bear on many familiar philosophical puzzles, from Frege's Hesperus-Phosphorus to Mark Richard's phone booth. Because of this there will be a certain overlap on the one hand with the seminar on reference I offered two years ago, and also with the `Seven Puzzles' seminar that is presented this semester by Mark Sainsbury and Michael Tye. The overlap with the reference seminar is only partial. And I very much hope that the overlap with the `Seven Puzzles' seminar may produce some fruitful dialogue.

N.B. Much work in DRT has to do with the details of DRS construction (i.e. of mapping syntactic structures of natural language expressions onto semantic representations). But that will NOT be the emphasis of this course. (However, some aspects of DRS construction will be important to what the seminar is about, however, and these will be discussed.)


Satisfaction Requirements:

Those enrolled for a grade will have to produce:

i.             A short paper (about 2000 words) by week 8.

ii.            A longer final paper (about 4000 words) by week 15.

A description of the material that will be covered in the course and preliminary breakdown into sessions can be found on the course webpage.

PHL 365 • Language And Thought

42453 • Spring 2009
Meets TTH 930-1100 CBA 4.328
(also listed as CGS 360, LIN 350)

An examination of process philosophy, one of the major metaphysical movements of the twentieth century, including philosophers such as James, Dewey, and Whitehead. 

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