Semantics & Pragmatics at ICL 2013: Call for Abstracts

NB: deadline now September 1!

Next summer, during the 19th International Congress of Linguists, which will take place July 22–27, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland, there will be an extensive session on formal semantics & pragmatics. The multi-day session on semantics & pragmatics will feature half hour presentations (20 minute talks + 10 minute discussion) and is organized by the founding editors of the journal “Semantics & Pragmatics”, David Beaver and Kai von Fintel. There are several other events that should also attract semanticists: two of the ICL’s keynote speakers are from our field: Angelika Kratzer and Philippe Schlenker; there are several workshops with semantic/pragmatic themes, such as the workshop on “modality as a window on cognition”. So, we expect that Geneva next July should be a very good place to visit. Please send us an abstract for a presentation! We invite abstracts on any topic in formal semantics and/or pragmatics and the interface between them. The abstracts will be reviewed by volunteers from the S&P Editorial Board.

Here’s the official call for papers, copied from the ICL website:

Semantics and Pragmatics

We seek original research papers developing new approaches to formal semantics and formal pragmatics: experimental and corpus methods, field methods, cross-linguistic comparison, and innovative formal frameworks. We particularly encourage submissions that develop dynamic and modal techniques beyond their traditional domain, especially as related to the cluster of six subtopics listed below.

We look forward to an exciting meeting, one that will be enhanced by the presence at the ICL of two keynote speakers whose research exemplifies the type of work we seek: Angelika Kratzer and Philippe Schlenker. The multi-day session on semantics & pragmatics will feature half hour presentations (20 minute talks + 10 minute discussion) and is organized by the founding editors of the journal “Semantics & Pragmatics”, David Beaver and Kai von Fintel.

1. Domain Restriction

Natural language quantifiers are subject to contextual domain restriction. Issues include whether the restriction occurs via covert material in logical form or via some parameter of evaluation, the precise location of the restriction (on a nominal, on a quantificational operator), and the question of whether domain restriction of modals and quantifiers and possibly other constructions should be seen as special cases of the same general phenomenon.

2. Evidentiality, modality, conditionals

The semantics of modals and conditionals have long been subjects of scholarly controversy, but until relatively recently the related intensional phenomenon of evidentiality (the grammatical marking of source or strength of evidence for a proposition) was largely overlooked by semanticists. We are interested in work that develops our understanding of any of these three types of construction, or that explores the similarities and differences between them.

3. Questions and alternatives

While the semantics of questions, and the pragmatic relationship between questions and answers, has been an ongoing area of study for forty years, there has been a strong renewal of interest in recent years. This interest centers around three related areas: (i) the relationship between questions and focus marking, (ii) models of discourse structure in terms of strategies for answering questions, and (iii) the advent of the framework of Inquisitive Semantics, which extends ideas developed in the context of question semantics to a wider range of constructions. We seek proposals that develop question semantics in any of these directions.

4. Desiderative constructions

Maintaining our general theme of extending dynamic and modal techniques beyond their traditional domain, we are seeking work that sheds light on a wider range of constructions, and a wider range of speech-act types, than had been achieved in a traditional, classical semantics. One important sub-area is desiderative constructions, broadly speaking those constructions that express desire, and which we take to include imperatives, optatives, and desiderative attitudes such as “want”.

5. Formal approaches to politeness

We understand “politeness” in Brown and Levinson’s sense as including not only traditional honorific marking, but also the more general issue of how linguistic form reflects the pragmatics of social relationships. A classic example, connecting with Topic 4, is the many forms of expression (direct or indirect) of the expression of commands and requests. Politeness issues have also come to the fore both because they appear to demand a dynamic, strategic view of communication, and because explicit marking of politeness often involves information that is conventionalized and yet apparently non-truth-conditional, hence posing a problem for traditional semantic methods.

6. Presupposition and Conventional Implicature

Presupposition and Conventional Implicature are among the drivers of work that pushes away from a classical conception of meaning. Of particular note is the tendency of both Presuppositions and Conventional Implicatures to exhibit “projection”, which occurs when an inference associated with a construction survives even after the construction is embedded within a larger construction that would tend to block inferences associated with ordinary truth-conditional content. A simple example, (cf. Topic 5) is way that deference exhibited by a use of a polite form in a clause is maintained even when that clause is embedded under negation. We seek papers that explore the question of how projective inferences should be explained, what causes projection in the first place, and what the similarities and differences are between different constructions that manifest such behavior.