NASSLLI 2012 June 18 - 22

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Inquisitive Semantics

Room: UTC 4.104


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.


Propositional logic, first-order logic.


Up to date information and introductory papers about inquisitive semantics, and lecture notes for the course will be made available at the course website.


  • Monday:

    General introduction. Basics of inquisitive semantics for the language of propositional logic and the language of predicate logic. Applications to cross-linguistic natural language semantics.

  • Tuesday:

    Introduction to inquisitive pragmatics. Pragmatic principles and the logical-pragmatic notion of compliance. Treatment of implicatures as arising in an interactive process.

  • Wednesday:

    Extension of the basic system to model attentive content and the at-issue/non-at-issue distinction. Applications, including the semantics and pragmatics of might, free-choice puzzles, and evidentials.

  • Thursday:

    Extension of the basic system to model (pre)suppositions and different types of responses (support, acceptance, rejection, objection, etc). Non-standard analysis of conditional assertions and questions.

  • Friday:

    Compositional refinement of the framework in order to capture the semantic impact of phonological features. Application to the semantics of disjunctive questions with different intonation patterns.



Jeroen Groenendijk

Floris Roelofsen

Email: floris (DOT) roelofsen (AT) gmail (DOT) com


Floris Roelofsen’s research is located at the intersection of logic, linguistics, and philosophy of language. He has been a visiting assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a research associate at the University of California Santa Cruz, and a research fellow at Harvard University. He is currently based at the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation at the University of Amsterdam.