Block Seminar on Inquisitive Semantics

Teacher: Jeroen Groenendijk
Dates: 19-20th of May 2011

Course description: 

This block seminar is a part of the course Discourse Pragmatics but also open for students not participating in the seminar. The main aim of inquisitive semantics is to develop a new notion of meaning that directly reflects the use of language to exchange information. The meaning of a sentence is not identified with its informative content, but rather with a proposal to update the common ground of a conversation in one or more ways. If a sentence proposes two or more alternative updates, then it is inquisitive, inviting other participants to choose between these alternative updates. If certain possible worlds are eliminated from the common ground by each of the proposed updates, then the sentence is informative. In this way, informative and inquisitive content are captured in a unified way, as two aspects of a single core notion of meaning.

Changing the notion of semantic meaning also changes our perspective on logic and pragmatics. Inquisitive logic is not only concerned with the classical notion of entailment, but also gives rise to more interactive logical notions such as compliance of a response. Where entailment rules the validity of argumentation, compliance rules the coherence of conversation.

We will first introduce the basic framework, starting with the semantics and then turning to the logic and the pragmatics. Then we will present some extensions and refinements of this basic framework, motivated by linguistic puzzles involving conditionals, modality, questions, and intonational meaning.

Tentative schedule:

19th of May

Lecture 1: 14.00 - 16.00 The inquisitive turn

Lecture 2: 16.00 - 18.00 Attentive Might

20th of May

Lecture 3: 10.00 - 12.00 Inquisitive Semantics and Pragmatics

Lecture 4: 13.00 - 15.00 Compliance and non-compliant strategies
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