Inquisitive Semantics

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.

News [[ View all news ]]

The paper Explaining presupposition projection in (coordinations of) polar questions by Émile Enguehard has appeared in Natural Language Semantics.

Today is the first day of a new two-months course on inquisitive semantics at the University of Amsterdam.

The kickoff workshop of the MECORE project takes place online, including presentations by Sunwoo Jeong, Kajsa Djarv, Maribel Romero, Deniz Ozyildiz, Ciyang Qing, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Kristina Liefke, Nadine Theiler, Jenny Doetjes, Tom Roberts, Donka Farkas, and Floris Roelofsen, among others.

A paper by Karl Nygren entitled Deontic Logic Based on Inquisitive Semantics has been published in the proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Deontic Logic and Normative Systems.

The Sinn und Bedeutung conference features presentations by Ciyang Qing and Floris Roelofsen.

Nadine Theiler starts a Postdoc at Konstanz University.

Featured courses [[ View all courses ]]

Logic and Conversation

2021 ][ Amsterdam

Traditionally, logic is concerned with the characterization of valid reasoning and argumentation, and therefore identifies the meaning of a sentence with its truth conditions. When analyzing the meaning of sentences…

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Dynamic inquisitive semantics

2021 ][ Utrecht (virtual)

This course brings together two important strands in the formal analysis of natural language meaning: dynamic semantics and inquisitive semantics. It develops an integrated logical framework, dynamic inquisitive semantics, and…

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Logic and Conversation

2020 ][ Amsterdam

Traditionally, logic is concerned with the characterization of valid reasoning and argumentation, and therefore identifies the meaning of a sentence with its truth conditions. When analyzing the meaning of sentences…

Go to course

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