Workshop on Annotation of Modal Meaning in Natural Language (WAMM)

Potsdam, March 19, 2013

Held in Conjunction with the 10th International Conference on Computational Semantics (IWCS) 2013

Representing the semantics of modal verbs (must), adjectives (likely) and nouns (chance), verbs of propositional attitude (believe, want), hedging adverbs (maybe, probably) and other expressions whose meaning is related to non-actual possibilities has been an important domain of research for philosophers of language, logicians, natural language semanticists, and computational linguists for decades.

In recent years, researchers in computational semantics have started to focus their attention on the interpretation of these expressions, as it has become clearer that identifying modal meaning has important consequences for such practical tasks as the computation of textual entailments, factuality status and sentiment analysis. Concurrently, significant theoretical-semantic research has lead to a deeper understanding of the interaction of modal meaning with tense and aspect on the one hand and syntactic structure on the other. Both lines of work have turned to semantic annotation to further their computational and theoretical investigation (Baker et al. 2012, de Haan 2011, Hacquard and Wellwood, to appear). In this workshop, we hope to bring together researchers from a variety of backgrounds with interest in the design and development of resources for sophisticated annotation of modal meaning in text.

The annotation of modal meaning presents a number of wide ranging problems for researchers, relating on the one hand to the practicalities of annotation and on the other to the subtlety of distinctions to be drawn in the modal domain. The very definition of the set of modal words is a difficult matter, raising questions about the differences between prototypical exemplars of the class (should, can) and verbs of propositional attitude (believe, want). Modals tend to be highly ambiguous, with senses that are subtly distinct and overlapping. There are also pervasive contextual pressures on the interpretation of modal expressions, as well as grammatical constraints which limit these contextual pressures in particular syntactic configurations. The complex interaction of grammar, context, and lexical content in the expression of modal meaning makes the task of creating high-quality annotated modal corpora particularly important and challenging. The goal of this workshop is to address these challenges.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Classes of modality (modal “flavors”) and the desirable fine-grainedness of the annotation.
  • Source of modality: identifying the agent behind the modal claim.
  • Identifying the scope of modal expressions: what is the proposition that is described as non-actual?
  • Representing the interaction of degree modifiers with modal expressions.
  • Polarity, negation, and modality.
  • Scopal and relational information in modal interpretation (modal subordination, situation anaphora).
  • Annotation of the semantic scope between modals and other quantifiers.
  • Modal interpretation in conversation: the representation of the shared beliefs and preferences of interlocutors.
  • Multilingual annotation and the prospects for a unified annotation scheme.
  • Modality annotation efforts crosslinguistically.
  • Viability of crowd-sourcing for the annotation of modality.
  • Machine learning of modal features (e.g., sense disambiguation of modality classes).
  • Use of annotated corpora for translation and other NLP applications.

Invited speaker

Prof. Dr. Anette Frank
Department of Computational Linguistics, University of Heidelberg


We invite submissions of long and short papers on any topic related to the themes of the workshop. Papers (in PDF format) should be submitted for anonymous review through the workshop's Easychair submission page. We strongly encourage the use of the ACL LaTeX format (see "ACL 2012 Style Files").
  • Long papers: up to 8 pages, including references
  • Short papers: up to 4 pages, including references

Guidelines for authors

Camera-ready papers should be formatted according to the ACL LaTeX format (see "ACL 2012 Style Files"). Papers should be up to 8 pages long, not including references. Please send your paper as a PDF attachment to by the date specified below.

Important dates

Submission deadline for short and long papers: November 30, 2012
Notification of acceptance: early January, 2013
Camera-ready papers due: January 30, 2013
Workshop date: March 19, 2013
IWCS 2013 conference: March 20-22, 2013


Paul Portner, Georgetown University
Aynat Rubinstein, Georgetown University
Graham Katz, CACI International

Please contact with any questions.

Program committee

Pranav Anand, University of California Santa Cruz
Mona Diab, Columbia University
Ferdinand de Haan, Oracle
Valentine Hacquard, University of Maryland
Iris Hendrickx, University of Lisbon
Marie-Catherine de Marneffe, Stanford University
Lori Levin, Carnegie Mellon University
Christopher Potts, Stanford University
James Pustejovsky, Brandeis University
Ines Rehbein, Potsdam University
Josep Ruppenhofer, University of Hildesheim
Roser Sauri, Barcelona Media
Janyce Wiebe, University of Pittsburgh