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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Matthijs Westera’s article Alternatives has appeared in the book Linguistics meets Philosophy.
Michael Tabatowski’s PhD thesis Preferring to Learn: An Attitudinal Approach to Polar Questions is now available.
A freely accessible pdf of Wataru Uegaki’s forthcoming book Question-orientedness and the semantics of clausal complementation is now available on the Semantics Archive.
Free Choice in Modal Inquisitive Logic by Karl Nygren has appeared in the Journal of Philosophical Logic.
The problem of closure and questioning attitudes by Richard Teague has appeared in Synthese.
Tomasz Klochowicz defends his Master thesis Clause-embedding predicates in Polish, supervised by Floris Roelofsen and Jakub Szymanik.