Integrating Approaches to Social Meaning


Social meaning has long been studied within pragmatics by considering general mechanisms of language use to understand notions such as politeness, and within sociolinguistics to understand notions such as speaker identity and the social significance of particular lexical and grammatical features. In recent years, there has been a growing interest among formal semanticists in the study of lexical elements whose semantics encode a component that directly bears on these kinds of social meanings, for example slurs and honorifics.

This workshop aims to bring together these different approaches, with an aim to integrating recent formal semantic work on conventionalized social meanings with the pragmatic, sociolinguistic and philosophical literature on the construction of social meanings, as well as theoretical and empirical aspects of the computational literature.

To what extent can we distinguish conventional from non-conventional means of expressing social meaning? What are the principles by which such meanings become conventionalized? How do conventional means of encoding social meaning interact with the general pragmatic principles that have been argued to governing social meaning? The workshop will be a platform for researchers with different backgrounds to discuss the meaning of expressions related to social aspects, including but not limited to the following themes:

• honorifics

• insults, slurs and pejoratives

• discourse particles

• code switching

• speech acts

• politeness

• identity construction

• gender marking in discourse

• argumentation

The workshop is part of the 29th European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (ESSLLI 2017), organized in Toulouse:

Apart from the workshop, ESSLLI offers two courses related to the study of social meaning:

  • Social Meaning, Sociolinguistic Variation and Game-Theoretic Pragmatics, Heather Burnett (LLF, CNRS), E. Allyn Smith (Université du Québec à Montréal)
  • The semantics and pragmatics of intensification: Logic, discourse and social meaning, Andrea Beltrama (University of Konstanz), Yaron McNabb (Utrecht University)


Monday 24/07

  • Introduction (C. Davis, E. McCready, G. Winterstein) slides
  • Heather Burnett, "A Meaning-Based Theory of Social Stratification" slides

Tuesday 25/07

  • Eric Acton, "Semantics, pragmatics, and the social meaning of the English definite article" slides
  • Ai Taniguchi, "Exhaustification and pejorativity: The case of Japanese nanka" slides

Wednesday 26/07

  • Cameron Domenico Kirk-Giannini, "Slurs Are Imperatives" slides
  • Stanley Donahoo, "Processing expressive content: Insights from swearing" slides

Thursday 27/07

  • Bianca Cepollaro, "Beyond slurs: how language encodes evaluations" slides
  • Yurina Ito, Koji Mineshima and Daisuke Bekki, "Indirect Answers to QUD" slides

Friday 28/07

  • Andrea Beltrama, Erlinde Meertens and Maribel Romero. "From Markedness to Insistence: On the Interactional Properties of Negative Alternative Questions." slides
  • General discussion and wrap up.


  • Andrea Beltrama, "The social meaning of intensification. The case of "totally"."
  • Dan Villarreal, "Core social meanings of the California Vowel Shift: A matched-guise study"


Call for papers

We invite submissions of abstracts on topics including those above. Abstracts should be anonymous and 2 pages in length including references and figures and should be submitted in PDF format by February 21, 2017 via EasyChair at:

Important dates

  • February 21: submission deadline (extended)
  • March 31: author notification
  • July 24-28: workshop

Scientific Committee

  • Christopher Davis (organizer)
  • Eric McCready (organizer)
  • Grégoire Winterstein (organizer)
  • Andrea Beltrama
  • Claire Beyssade
  • Heather Burnett
  • Elisabeth Camp
  • Daniel Gutzmann
  • Julie Hunter
  • Magdalena Kaufmann
  • Regine Lai
  • Zoe Luk
  • Alda Mari
  • Christopher Potts
  • Peter Sells
  • Elizabeth-Allyn Smith
  • Henk Zeevat
  • Malte Zimmermann

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