Logic and Language

Justin Bledin (Johns Hopkins University): Resistance & Resolution

Speaker: Justin Bledin (Johns Hopkins University)
Title: Resistance & Resolution
Time: 16:00 - 17:30
Location: ILLC Seminar Room F1.15

Abstract: (joint work with Kyle Rawlins at Johns Hopkins)

Linguists and philosophers of language have been obsessed with agreement and disagreement of late. But this obsession has obscured just how much can happen in the aftermath of an assertion. Besides acceptance and rejection, there is a broad and seldom-explored terrain of hearer reaction types. In this talk, I focus on one such type: resistance moves that target a speaker's attention.


A: Charlie is coming to the party.

B: Diana might be there.

B': Isn't Diana coming?

B'': What if Diana is coming?

B''': Even if Diana is coming?

B'''': What about Diana?

B''''': You know that Diana is coming, right?


(Background context: Charlie and Diana just had a messy breakup)


To analyze such exchanges, I argue that we must acknowledge that individual acceptance states are subject matter- or resolution-sensitive; roughly put, a conversational participant will view a space of maximally specific possible states of reality at a particular resolution, foregrounding certain distinctions between these states while ignoring others, and attending to a new issue or topic serves to sharpen the resolution. I then show how this resolution-sensitivity can be embedded into a broader Stalnakerian [1978], [2002], [2014] account of conversation where the attention states of the different interlocutors, and their higher-order views about these states, are in constant flux as the discourse proceeds. If time permits, I compare our theory to previous work on awareness dynamics by Franke and de Jager [2010] and related work in inquisitive semantics by Ciardelli, Groenendijk, and Roelofsen [2009], [2010], and Ciardelli and Roelofsen [2014].