What is inquisitive semantics?
Inquisitive semantics is a framework for the formal analysis of information exchange. It is based on a notion of semantic content which, unlike the traditional truth-conditional notion, captures both informative and inquisitive aspects of meaning. It allows for a unified analysis of statements and questions, as well as linguistic elements that interact with both statements and questions, such as modals, quantifiers, connectives, and discourse particles.
A new perspective on meaning
In inquisitive semantics, an utterance is intuitively seen as a proposal to update the already established information in one or more ways. Statements propose a single update. Questions propose two or more alternative updates. This makes questions inquisitive: they invite a response from the addressee that establishes at least one of the proposed alternative updates.
A new perspective on logic
The way in which inquisitive semantics enriches the notion of meaning changes our perspective on logic as well. Besides the classical notion of logical entailment, the semantics also gives rise to a new notion of inquisitive entailment and a more general treatment of logical operators such as connectives (e.g. and, or, if, not), quantifiers (e.g., some, all), and modal operators (e.g., must, may, know, believe, wonder).
A new perspective on pragmatics
The way in which inquisitive semantics enriches the notion of meaning also changes our perspective on pragmatics. The main objective of pragmatics is to explain aspects of interpretation that are not directly dictated by semantic content in terms of general features of rational human behaviour. Since inquisitive semantics offers a richer notion of semantic content, pragmatics becomes richer as well. Traditional Gricean pragmatics consists exclusively of speaker-oriented rules for providing information. Inquisitive pragmatics has the same basic objective, but is more general: it is both speaker- and hearer-oriented, and specifies rules for exchanging information rather than just providing information. This makes it possible to derive a wider range of implicatures, in particular ones that arise from inquisitiveness.
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The article Questions and Indexicality by Thom van Gessel has been published in the Journal of Philosophical Logic.
The article Wh-questions in dynamic inquisitive semantics by Floris Roelofsen and Jakub Dotlacil has been published as a target article in Theoretical Linguistics. Maria Biezma, Maria Boritchev, Emile Enguehard, Yasu Sudo, Haoze Li, Valentina Bianchi, and Silvio Cruschina provided commentaries, and Floris Roelofsen and Jakub Dotlacil wrote a response to these commentaries. This work is dedicated to the memory of Jeroen Groenendijk.
Tomasz Klochowicz presents his ongoing work on Free Choice Questions at the PALMYR workshop in London, with comments by Yasu Sudo.
Floris Roelofsen and Tomasz Klochowicz start teaching a two-month course on inquisitive semantics and clause-embedding at the University of Amsterdam.
With great sadness we have learned that Jeroen Groenendijk has passed away. Jeroen has made groundbreaking contributions to formal semantics. His work on dynamic semantics and inquisitive semantics have been particularly influential. He has been a teacher, mentor, and a dear friend to many of us, and we will greatly miss him.
Alexandros Kalomoiros’ article Deriving presupposition projection in coordinations of polar questions: a reply to Enguehard 2021 has appeared in Natural Language Semantics.