Workhop on Questions and Inquisitive Semantics

FLoV, University of Gothenburg, December 17th-18th, 2012, sponsored by the Centre for Language Technology

Invited guests: Matthijs Westera (U. Amsterdam) and Thomas Brochhagen (U. Duesseldorf)

Local participants: Staffan Larsson, Elizabeth Coppock


Monday, Dec. 17th
9am-10amM. WesteraFoundations of Inquisitive Semantics
10am-12pmM. WesteraInquisitive Pragmatics
1pm-2pmE. Coppock & T. Brochhagen   Raising and Resolving Issues with Scalar Modifiers
2pm-3pmM. WesteraScalar Modifiers in Inquisitive Semantics
Tuesday, Dec. 18th
9am-10amElizabeth CoppockDynamic Semantics with Questions and Scales
10am-12pmS. LarssonQuestion Accommodation in Dialogue
3pm-5pmM. WesteraDynamic Inquisitive Semantics

All talks will take place in room T346 in FLoV.


Monday 9am-10am: Matthijs Westera, Foundations of Inquisitive Semantics

The central aim of the inquisitive semantics project is to develop a new notion of semantic meaning that is more suited than classical semantics for the analysis of conversation in natural language. In inquisitive semantics, a sentence is taken to express a proposal to update the common ground of a conversation in one of several ways. Adopting this notion of meaning commits us to a richer representation of meanings, a new semantics, new logical notions of entailment and relatedness and new opportunities for the pragmatics.

In this talk, Matthijs Westera will give a general overview of the conceptual and algebraic underpinnings of two versions of inquisitive semantics ('basic'and 'unrestricted'), that each take off from a slightly different notion of meaning.

Monday 10am-12pm: Matthijs Westera, Inquisitive Pragmatics

In this talk, Matthijs will focus on exhaustivity (or 'scalar', or 'quantity') implicatures. He will discuss several of many well-known problems for existing accounts of exhaustivity implicatures, and blame their failure on an assumption which more-or-less follows from the information-orientedness of classical semantics: that the goal of a conversation is to be maximally informative. Instead, inquisitive semantics enables us to formulate the goal as 'to raise and resolve proposals'. He will give an overview of the pragmatics this gives rise to, and show how exhaustivity implicatures are more accurately explained. Throughout this talk, we will keep a close eye on Grice's 'Logic and conversation'.

Monday 1pm-2pm: Elizabeth Coppock and Thomas Brochhagen, Raising and Resolving Issues with Scalar Modifiers

In this talk, Elizabeth Coppock and Thomas Brochhagen will argue that superlative scalar modifiers like at least are inquisitive, while comparative scalar modifiers like more are not. [Paper available here.]

2pm-3pm: Matthijs Westera, Scalar Modifiers in Inquisitive Semantics

Building on the same intuitions as Coppock and Brochhagen and adopting a large part of their framework, Matthijs will show how a completely uniform semantics of scalar modifiers may resolve these puzzles, as long as inquisitive pragmatics is taken into account.

Tuesday 9am-10am: Elizabeth Coppock, Dynamic Semantics with Questions and Scales (joint work with David Beaver)

In this talk, Coppock will discuss a kind of dynamic semantics in which questions and scalar rankings over the answers are part of the context. Its usefulness will be illustrated through the analysis of examples in which the scalar focus-sensitive particle only occurs embedded inside relative clauses, for example, in I'm always running around helping everybody who only speaks Spanish. The analysis relies on question accomodation, but a better theory of this is needed. [Paper available here.]

Tuesday 10am-12pm: Staffan Larsson, Question Accommodation in Dialogue

In this talk, Staffan Larsson will discuss question accommodation in the context of an update-based approach to dialogue.

Tuesday 3pm-5pm: Matthijs Westera: Dynamic Inquisitive Semantics

An important application of inquisitive semantics lies in characterising the range of natural responses to a given initiative. If we wish to extend its empirical domain to responses with anaphors (`There is someone at the door! / Yes, it's John.'), a dynamic approach is needed. Matthijs show how inquisitive semantics may be dynamicized in the spirit of Groenendijk and Stokhof's dynamic predicate logic and give an impression of its applications.