Logic and Conversation: Fall 2019

Amsterdam Master of Logic, University of 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 in conversation, however, other notions become of interest as well. The focus of the course will be on inquisitive semantics, which enriches the traditional truth-conditional picture in ways that allow for a more comprehensive logical analysis of the meaning of sentences in linguistic interaction. The first part of the course introduces the basic inquisitive semantics framework. The second part discusses some current research in this area.

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Term papers

The course has ended and has lead to some very interesting term papers. Here are links to some of them:


Good working knowledge of first-order logic is required, and some background in formal semantics is convenient, though not really necessary. For students of the Master of Logic, it is typically best to take this course in the second year of the programme (although there may be exceptions of course, depending on your specific background).


The first part of the course uses a textbook. The book is open access, so everyone can download a pdf for free. If you prefer a hardcopy, you can order one for about $30 at amazon (or other online bookstores).


The grade will be based on two homework assignments (each counting for 20%) and a final paper (60%).


  • A latex template for drawing inquisitive semantics diagrams can be downloaded here.
  • Assignment 1 was posted on 3/9 and was due on Tuesday 17/9 at midnight.
  • Assignment 2 was posted on 21/9 and was due on Friday 4/10 before class.

Instructions for final paper

The final paper can be written either in groups of 2-3 students or individually. We encourage working in groups, but if someone has a particular topic that they want to work on and cannot find others interested in this topic, then working individually is perfectly fine of course. Students are encouraged to discuss possible topics with us early on in the course. Topics and groups should be determined by October 8 at the very latest and should be communicated to us by that date. A preliminary version of the paper is to be presented during the last lecture, October 18, and the final version is due after the exam week, on October 27 (midnight). See Appendix B of the textbook for pointers to some relevant literature, which may help in finding an interesting topic.

Grading criteria for final paper

The criteria are the same as for a master thesis, though of course here we do not expect as much as in the case of a thesis.

  1. Correctness All claims should be correct, precisely formulated and carefully argued for.
  2. Writing The paper should be well-structured; the writing should be clear and concise. Typically, papers are around 10 pages. There is no official upper or lower bound, but quality is preferred over quantity: a single idea or result that is clearly explained in 7 pages is better than a collection of multiple half-baked ideas discussed in 15 pages.
  3. Difficulty Both conceptual and technical difficulty are taken into account.
  4. Originality The paper should contain some new results. This can take many forms: establishing previously unknown properties of one of the logical systems discussed in class, or closely related ones; further enriching the theories discussed; testing the predictions of the theories; developing new applications; developing a theory of your own that solves some of the remaining challenges for the theories discussed.

Late policy

Deadlines are strict. Late submissions will be accepted until three days after the deadline, but 0.5 points will be subtracted from the grade per day.


Tuesdays 13.00-15.00 (B0.206), Fridays 13.00-15.00 (B0.208)

# Date Material Content Lecturer
1 3/9 Book chapter 1 Motivation (slides) Floris
2 6/9 Book chapter 2 Basic notions Thom
3 10/9 Book chapter 3 Operations on propositions Floris
4 13/9 Book chapter 4 First-order inquisitive semantics Floris
5 17/9 Book chapter 5-6 Question semantics Floris
6 20/9 Book chapter 8 Propositional attitudes: inquisitive epistemic logic Floris
7 24/9 Book chapter 9 Comparison with other frameworks Floris
Some current research topics
8 27/9 Kaplan / Stalnaker / Schroeter Two-dimensional semantics Thom
9 1/10 van Gessel (2019) Two-dimensional inquisitive semantics Thom
10 4/10 Parts of Chierchia (2013)
Pages 1-2, 20-22, and 26-40
Guerzoni & Sharvit (2014)
Negative polarity items Floris
11 8/10 Crnic (2014) Negative polarity items in questions Floris
12 11/10 Groenendijk et al. (1996) Dynamic semantics Thom
13 15/10 Dotlacil and Roelofsen (2019) Dynamic inquisitive semantics (slides) Floris
14 18/10 Project presentations