ISCL Proseminar
Winter Semester 2011

PS Mathematics for Linguists

Last update: October 18, 2011

Course goals:

Mathematical methods are essential for understanding and working in theoretical and computational linguistics. This course introduces the key concepts from the areas of set theory, algebra and logic, which belong to the basic repertoire of linguistic methods. The main goal of the course is to provide the students with sufficient competence in basic notations, terminology and concepts of discrete mathematics for their studies in theoretical and computational linguistics. Familiarity with concepts such as sets, functions and propositions, and the ability to work with simple proof techniques are a crucial prerequisite for subsequent courses.



Course meets:

Online materials: We will be posting materials on the university Moodle site, which is accessible at You will access it to locate the updated syllabus, slides, handouts, pointers to reading material, etc. You access the Moodle using your general university login (also called ZDV login).

We will at times send you email related to our class. Please be sure to read email sent to your university email account - either directly or forward it to another email account that you read at least once a day.

Moodle and privacy: Be aware that course management systems such as Moodle system keep logs of your interaction with the system, e.g., when you log in.

Course readings: Part of this course will be based on the excellent book Barbara H. Partee, Alice ter Meulen, Robert E. Wall (1990): Mathematical Methods in Linguistics. Kluwer Academic Publishers and we will assign regular readings from it. Please get ahold of a copy of the book – you will need to have a copy by the end of week 2 of the semester. The book covers essential material that you’ll need to refer to throughout your studies and the book is cheap, so buying a copy for yourself generally is the best idea. There also are ten copies of the book in the Lehrbuchsammlung of the main university library, where you can check it out under the signature Lili A 900.

We will make our slides available on our Moodle course site. They are only a skeleton of the material covered and definitely cannot replace actually being in class and doing the assigned readings. In our experience, students who actively participate in class enjoy the course more and do much better on the exams than those who don’t—very surprising, isn’t it? ;-)

Course requirements: The basic requirement is regular attendance in class and active participation. If you cannot attend class for an important reason, please contact us by email before the class you will miss. Following the official rules of the college, students who, without notifying us in advance, miss more than two meetings will automatically fail the class.

There will generally be one homework and one quiz per week, to step by step ensure the material covered in class is mastered. There will be a midterm exam which consists of the material covered in the first half of the class, and the final exam will cover the contents covered in the second half of the class. It is possible to end the course with a 2 SWS credit after the midterm, which is the requirement students of Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft need to satisfy. But everyone is welcome to attend until the end of the semester, which is obligatory to satisfy the ISCL requirement.

Grading: Grades will be based on participation in classroom discussion/ quizzes, homeworks, and the exams using the following scheme:

Homeworks 30%
Midterm 30%
Final 30%

For students ending the course after the midterm exam we will use:

Homeworks 45%
Midterm 45%

The following grading scheme is used to map percentages to grades:

B+/1.787–89 C+/2.777–79 D+/3.767–69
A/1 93–100 B/2 83–86 C/3 73–76 D/4 60–66
A-/1.3 90–92 B-/2.380–82 C-/3.370–72

Make-up Policy: If you know you won’t be able to make a deadline or exam, please definitely let us know before you miss the deadline or exam. If you miss the midterm or final, you will have to provide extensive written documentation for your excuse.

Academic Misconduct: To state the obvious, academic dishonesty is unacceptable. Cheating on tests or on other assignments will be handled according to the university guidelines. The most common form of misconduct is copying or plagiarism. Remember that any time you use the ideas or the materials of another person, you must acknowledge that you have done so in a citation. This includes material that you have found on the Web or given to you by another student by email, telephone or in person.

Class etiquette: Please do not read or work on materials for other classes in class. Please come to class on time and do not pack up early. All portable electronic devices such as cell phones should be switched off for the length of the flight, oops, class. If for some reason, you must leave early or you have an important call coming in, notify us before class.

Schedule: The latest version of the schedule is always available on Moodle. After the lectures, the handouts are available from the Moodle web site.

  1. Monday, October 17: Introduction and Set Theory
  2. Wednesday, October 19: Set Theory II
  3. Monday, October 24: Relations and functions I
  4. Wednesday, October 26: Relations and functions II
  5. Monday, October 31: Statement logic: syntax and semantics
  6. Wednesday, November 2: Statement logic: translation
  7. Monday, November 7: Statement logic: meta-logic and calculus of truth trees
  8. Wednesday, November 9: Statement logic: truth trees, natural deduction
  9. Monday, November 14: Statement logic: natural deduction
  10. Wednesday, November 16: Inductive proofs
  11. Monday, November 21: Predicate logic: introduction
  12. Wednesday, November 23: Predicate logic: quantification
  13. Monday, November 28: Predicate logic: meta-logic
  14. Wednesday, November 30: Predicate logic: truth trees
  15. Monday, December 5: Midterm exam
  16. Wednesday, December 7: Prolog: introduction
  17. Monday, December 12: Prolog: relations
  18. Wednesday, December 14: Prolog: data structures (lists, etc.)
  19. Monday, December 19: Prolog: recursive relations I
  20. Wednesday, December 21: Prolog: recursive relations II
  21. Monday, December 19: Formal language theory: introduction
  22. Wednesday, December 21:
  23. Monday, January 9: Formal language theory: regular languages
  24. Wednesday, January 11: Formal language theory: regular expressions
  25. Monday, January 16: Formal language theory: context-free languages
  26. Wednesday, January 18:
  27. Monday, January 23: Complexity
  28. Wednesday, January 25:
  29. Monday, January 30:
  30. Wednesday, February 1: Final exam