Inquisitive Semantics: Summer 2012

Austin, Texas, USA North American Summer School for Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLLI)

Inquisitive semantics develops a new notion of semantic meaning that directly reflects the use of language in exchanging information. The meaning of a sentence is not identified with its informative content, but rather with a proposal to update the common ground of a conversation in one or more ways. If a sentence proposes two or more alternative updates, then it is inquisitive, inviting other participants to choose between these alternative updates. If certain possible worlds are eliminated from the common ground by each of the proposed updates, then the sentence is informative. In this way, informative and inquisitive content are captured in a unified way, as two aspects of a single core notion of meaning. The aim of the course is to familiarize students and researchers with the framework, and to engage them in the further development of the logical-theoretical foundations, and the linguistic and computational applications. This is the perfect time for such engagement, since the fundamental building blocks of the framework are in place, the central research questions are clear, and the wide applicability of the framework can be illustrated with several concrete case studies. At the same time, many open questions remain and there is much room and demand for contributions from students and researchers in logic, linguistics, and computer science.

Course notes

The course notes can be downloaded here.


Day 1: Inquisitive meanings (section 2)

Day 2: Inquisitive algebra and inquisitive semantics (sections 3 and 4.1)

Day 3: Inquisitive semantics continued (section 4)

Day 4: Relevance for natural language semantics, and an extension of the basic system with presuppositions (sections 6 and 7.1)

Day 5: Inquisitive pragmatics and discourse modeling (section 8)