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Formal semantics and pragmatics of sign languages

Over the last 60 years sign languages (SL) have received considerable attention from linguists, including formal linguists. However, to date formal semantics and pragmatics has barely been applied to SL. The few available studies suggest that SL data can have serious theoretical consequences. For instance, role shift appears to be an instantiation of context shift, but the form it takes in SL may challenge the concept of context shift as applied to spoken languages. This workshop aims to bring together researchers interested in formal semantics and pragmatics and how this works out in SL. It will emphasize the importance of applying independently motivated formal approaches to the study of sign languages.

Organizers: Vadim Kimmelman, Roland Pfau and Anne Baker

Invited speaker: Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris and New York University)

Formal semantic evidence

The website for this workshop can be found here.

Formal semantics as a field of linguists undergoes a rapid change with respect to the status of quantitative methodologies, the application of which is gradually becoming a standard in the field, replacing the good old 'armchair' methodology. In light of this development, we invite submissions reporting of high level formal semantic research benefiting from the use of a quantitative methodology, corpora-based,  experimental, neurolinguistic, computational or other. Ideal presentations include informed reflections on the role of a particular methodology in formal semantics.

  • We welcome submissions focusing on wide spread, yet not unproblematic or elusive semantic-pragmatic concepts such as 'context', 'accommodation', 'question under discussion', 'ordering source', and so forth; what methodologies can shed new light on such notions and the way they might be systematically studied and decoded?
  • What kind of experimental evidence (if any) can bear on fundamental issues such as the nature of the semantic lexicon on the one hand, and compositionality and projection on the other?  What is the nature of semantic infelicity or markedness? What kind of experimental evidence (if any) can support or refute hypotheses concerning the nature of the logical form or its very existence? Concerning empty categories?
  • Finally, can formal semantic tools contribute to our understanding of experimental results and theoretical issues within cognitive psychology as pertaining to natural  language semantics?

Organizers: Katrin Schulz and Galit Weidman Sassoon

Invited speakers: Richard Breheny (University College London) and Bart Geurts (Radboud University Nijmegen)


The website for this workshop can be found here.

Questions and answers are a major topic in semantics and pragmatics, and to some extent in logic and philosophy as well. This interest in inquisitiveness goes beyond the interpretation of questions as such. For example, questions are widely assumed to play a structural role in the analysis of discourse. Likewise, most theories on focus and the interpretation of intonation make a link with the question-answerhood relation. More radically it has been argued that a proper understanding of seemingly purely informative constructions, like disjunctions and conditionals, requires a notion of inquisitiveness as a basic ingredient of meaning. The main aim of this workshop is to investigate the significance of inquisitiveness for semantics, pragmatics, and logic.

Organizers: Jeroen Groenendijk, Floris Roelofsen and Matthijs Westera

Invited speaker: Manfred Krifka (Humboldt-Universit├Ąt zu Berlin)