Logic and Conversation, Fall 2016

Time: Fall 2016, Block 1, Tuesdays 11-13 and Thursdays 13-15
Place: Tuesdays G0.23, Thursdays B0.208
Teaching staff: Floris Roelofsen and Nadine Theiler (TA)

Term papers

The course has ended, and has led to some very interesting term papers:

Jakob Piribauer and Joannes Campell: Presumption and epistemic modalities in InqLP

General course description

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. Truth conditions capture the information that a sentence provides. But some sentences do not provide information, but rather raise an issue (e.g., Where are my keys?), or draw attention to a certain possibility (e.g., They might be in the car).

The focus of the course will be on inquisitive semantics and attentive semantics, which both enrich the traditional truth-conditional picture in ways that allow for a more comprehensive logical analysis of the meaning of sentences in linguistic interaction. We will also explore some ways of combining inquisitive and attentive semantics, an area of current research.


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 usually best to take this course in your second year (although there may be exceptions of course, depending on your specific background).

Lecture notes

The lecture notes for the first part of the course (including exercises) can be downloaded here.


 Lecture  Date Material Content Lecturer
    Inquisitive semantics 
 1  LN chapter 1 Motivation Floris
 2  LN chapter 2 Basic notions Floris
 3  LN chapter 3 Operations on propositions Floris
 4  LN chapter 4 First-order inquisitive semantics Floris
 5  LN chapter 6 Declarative and interrogative lists Floris
 6  LN chapter 5 Question semantics Floris
 7  LN chapter 7 Inquisitive epistemic logic Floris
    Attentive semantics 
 8  CGR 2009 Inquisitive semantics with attentive content Floris    

 Roelofsen 2013 Bare bone attentive semantics Floris
 10  Westera 2013
Gamut Ch6
 Attentive pragmatics
For background on standard Gricean pragmatics
 Willer 2013 Attention as live possibilities Nadine
 Willer 2015 Integrating inquisitive and attentive content I Nadine
 Roelofsen 2016 First sketch of inquisitive live possibility semantics Floris
 14    Project presentations


The grade will be based on two homework assignments covering the material from the first part of the course (each counting for 20%) and a final paper (60%).

first assignment (due September 18).
- second assignment (due October 2).

Instructions for final paper
The final paper can be written either in groups of 2-3 students or individually. We strongly encourage working in groups, but if someone already has a particular topic that they want to work on and cannot find others interested in this topic, then working individually is permitted. Students are encouraged to discuss possible topics with us early on in the course. Topics and groups should be determined by October 10 at the latestA preliminary version is to be presented during the last lecture, October 20, and the final version is due after the exam week, on October 30 (midnight)See Appendix B of the lecture notes for pointers to 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 logics discussed in class, or closely related ones; further enriching the theories discussed; developing new applications; developing a theory of your own that solves some of the remaining challenges for the theories discussed.
Late policy
The deadline is intended to be strict. Late submissions will be accepted until three days after the deadline, but 0.5 points will be substracted from the grade per day.