Inquisitive Semantics: Theoretical Foundations and Empirical Explorations : Spring 2010

Amherst UMass Amherst

We will first discuss some of the theoretical foundations of inquisitive semantics and pragmatics, and then explore several empirical domains. We will look at the interpretation of disjunction, questions, and existentials in various languages, in interaction with modality, conditionals, and focus. We will also consider evidentials, and the semantic contribution of certain prosodic features.

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Assignments and grading

  • Mid-term paper
    Length: 5-10 pages
    Due: March 22
    Weight: 30%
  • Presentation
    Length: depending on total number of presentations
    Topic: either your own paper-in-progress, or related work
    Date: 4/21 or 4/26
    Weight: 20%
  • Final paper
    Length: 10-20 pages
    Due: May 15
    Weight: 50%

Potential additional topics

  • Inquisitive logic: Mascarenhas, Sano, Ciardelli, Roelofsen.
  • First-order case: Ciardelli-09a, chapter 6, and Ciardelli-09b.
  • Hypothetical information exchange: supposition, modal subordination, conditional questions, counterfactuals.
  • Unconditionals: Rawlins, Kaufmann.
  • Inquisitiveness cross-linguistically: Haspelmath-01, Bhatt-00
  • Questions and indefinites in dynamic semantics: Haida.
  • Intervention effects: Beck, Kim, Pesetsky, Haida, Cable.
  • Question-based models of discourse: Roberts, Büring.
  • Acquisition of disjunctive questions in Japanese and Mandarin: Akagi.
  • Exhausitivity marking in Hungarian: Balogh-09, ch.4,5


Date Topic Reading Optional reading
Week 1 (1/25) Intro to inquisitive semantics (slides)
From truth- and answerhood-conditions to propositions as proposals
From partitions to possibilities
sections 1-3
Week 2 (2/1) Inquisitive semantics and pragmatics (slides) GR-09b
sections 4-6
Week 3 (2/8) Inquisitive implicatures (slides)
Focus, congruence, and exhaustification (slides)
Computing compliance (slides) (website)
sections 7
chapters 2-4
Week 4 (2/16) (TUE) Attentive might in inquisitive semantics CGR-10 Zimmermann-00
Week 5 (2/22) Attentive might in inquisitive pragmatics CGR-10
Week 6 (3/1) Disjunction, intonation, and highlighting (slides)
Joint presentation with Kathryn Pruitt
PR-10 Pruitt-07, RvG-10
Aloni-Egre-de-Jager-09, Schaffer-07
Week 7 (3/8) Location: Bartlett 125
Inner negation polar questions
Martin Walkow
Polar questions in Finnish
Anisa Schardl
Seminar ends at 4:25, job-talk at 4:30
----Spring break----
Week 8 (3/22) Location: Bartlett 125
Evidentials in Cheyenne
Sarah Murray (Rutgers)
Seminar ends at 4:25, job-talk at 4:30
Murray-09a Murray-09b
Week 11 (3/29) Questions in Yukatek Maya
Scott Anderbois (UCSC)
Anderbois-10a Anderbois-10b
Week 10 (4/5) Wh-questions in Tlingit
Seth Cable
Week 9 (4/12) Radical inquisitive semantics GR-10
Week 12 (4/21) (WED) More radical inquisitive semantics
Alternatives and counterfactuals
Alonso-Ovalle-06, chapters 1-2

Week 13 (4/26) Rise-fall-rise and inquisitive semantics
Noah Constant
Questions in Yudja
Suzi Lima
Modality and evidentiality
Aynat Rubinstein
Week 14 (5/3) ----Finale----