Prof. Mag. Phil. Winfried Lechner, PhD, University of Athens
Natural Language Semantics and Music


Applying methods of formal linguistics to the study of music has exposed homologies between the two systems, though meaning-related aspects of music have remained understudied. This frontier is explored in "Natural Language Semantics and Music", a talk by Winfried Lechner of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The talk is part of OFAI's 2023 Winter/Spring Lecture Series.

Members of the public are cordially invited to attend the talk via Zoom on Wednesday, 8 March at 18:30 CET (UTC+1):

Meeting ID: 842 8244 2460
Passcode: 678868

Talk abstract: Both human language and music can be modeled as discrete, combinatorial systems. Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) demonstrated that applying the methods of formal linguistics to the study of (tonal) music provides a strategy for exposing homologies between these two systems. But while syntactic properties of music have attracted a considerable amount of interest (Rohrmeier 2011; Granroth-Wilding and Steedman 2014; see Rohrmeier & Pearce 2018 for an survey), meaning-related aspects have by and large remained understudied (an exception is Schlenker 2019, 2022). In part, this might be due to the widely held belief that unlike natural language, music neither has a lexicon of atomic form-meaning pairs (Katz and Pesetsky 2011) nor employs compositional mechanisms to recursively derive complex meanings. I will explore some consequences of these two assumptions by making explicit what they entail for the study of music from a linguistic perspective.

Speaker biography: Winfried Lechner is Professor of Theoretical Linguistics (and German Linguistics) at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. His primary academic interests are located in the areas of formal semantics, syntax, the syntax-semantic interface and allied fields. Undergraduate education at the University of Vienna (Magister in linguistics and Japanese); graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (PhD in linguistics, 1999); research and/or teaching positions in Tübingen, Vienna, Stuttgart, Nicosia and at MIT. Recent research projects have addressed the logical syntax of scope and reconstruction; ellipsis; reflexivization; comparatives; the cross-linguistic typology of same/different; additive and scalar focus particles; and generally issues related to the architecture of grammar.