Inquisitive semantics and pragmatics: Fall 2011

Amsterdam Master of Logic, University of Amsterdam

The course provides an in-depth introduction in inquisitive semantics, logic, and pragmatics, and engages students in current research questions. Inquisitive semantics offers a new logical-semantical model for the interpretation of natural language. The proposition expressed by a sentence is viewed as a proposal to update the common ground of a conversation. Crucially, a speaker may propose several alternative ways of updating the common ground, from which the hearer is invited to choose. The new semantic framework gives rise to new directions for the study of pragmatics, and also leads to new logical research questions.
In the first part of the course we discuss the logical and philosophical foundations of inquisitive semantics, and will illustrate its applications in several empirical linguistic domains. The last part of the course is intended to have the nature of a research colloquium. Students will choose a small research project on logical, philosophical or linguistic aspects of inquisitive semantics, write a small research report, and present their findings to the other students.

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Potential additional topics

  • Unconditionals: Rawlins, Kaufmann.
  • Hypothetical information exchange: supposition, modal subordination, conditional questions, counterfactuals.
  • 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: Ginzburg, Roberts, Büring.
  • Acquisition of disjunctive questions in Japanese and Mandarin: Akagi.
  • Exhausitivity marking in Hungarian: Balogh-09, ch.4,5
  • Further reading on attentive might: Willer-11, Yalcin-11

Assignments and grading

  • Mid-term paper
    Length: 5-10 pages
    Due: Nov 1
    Weight: 30%
  • Presentation
    Length: depending on total number of presentations
    Topic: either your own paper-in-progress, or related work
    Date: Dec 7 or Dec 14
    Weight: 20%
  • Final paper
    Length: 10-20 pages
    Due: Dec 20
    Weight: 50%


Date Topic Reading Optional reading
Week 1 (7/9) General course introduction (slides)
Basic intro to inquisitive semantics (slides)
Week 2 (14/9) Inquisitive semantics
(restricted, support-based)
Groenendijk-Roelofsen-09 (sec.1-3) Groenendijk-09
Week 3 (21/9) Inquisitive algebra and logic Roelofsen-11
Week 4 (28/9) First order inquisitive semantics:
the maximality problem and witnesses
Week 5 (5/10) Witness semantics
An algebraic perspective
Week 6 (12/10) Witness semantics Groenendijk-Roelofsen-11-prague
Week 7 (19/10) The logic of interrogation from the perspective of inquisitive semantics Groenendijk-11 Groenendijk-99
Break (midterm paper due Nov 1)
Week 8 (2/11) Attentive content (slides) Ciardelli-Groenendijk-Roelofsen-10 Zimmermann-00
Week 11 (9/11) Three ways of thinking about possibilities
Week 10 (16/11) Disjunctive questions, prosody and syntax Pruitt-Roelofsen-11 Roelofsen and van Gool-09
Week 9 (23/11) Disjunctive questions, semantics
Erotetic languages
Week 12 (30/11) Erotetic languages and the inquisitive hierarchy
Inquisitive dynamic epistemic logic
Week 13 (7/12) Polarity particles
Farkas-Roelofsen-11 Farkas-Bruce-10
Week 14 (14/12) Project presentations David van Tijn
Holger Brunn
Matt Teichman
Pawel Lojko