Projects in Previous Years

1st Semester 2015/16: Suppositional Inquisitive semantics and dialogue pragmatics

Jeroen Groenendijk
If you are interested in this project, please contact the instructor by email.
This is a project in the field of Logic & Language. It links up with the research in the Inquisitive Semantics group. The specific research topic is a formal framework of dialogue pragmatics which has the recently developed suppositional inquisitive semantics as its logical-semantical basis. This is work in progress for which I can use some help.

The empirical domain is a class of basic inquisitive dialogues in natural language, translatable in a propositional language. We are specifically interested in cooperative dialogues that open with a question that is responded to with another question. The pragmatics consists of a small set of pragmatic implications that are associated with a specific class of dialogue moves. Asking a response question being one such move. In its analysis the new logical notion of contextual question dependency plays a core role.

The empirical aim of the system is to predict the felicity or infelicity of the dialogues under consideration. If a dialogue is judged felicitous we should be able to prove that it is possible that all relevant pragmatic implications were satisfied. If a dialogue is judged to be infelicitous we should be able to show that the assumption that all relevant pragmatic implications were satisfied leads to a contradiction. So, logic has a primary role to play.

First aim of the project is for the students to test the predictions of the existing system on a substantial selection of data. Of course, empirical findings may lead to alterations of the pragmatic implications, requiring further tests. And if the tests are sufficiently successful, extensions of the set of dialogues moves and the of class of dialogues under consideration can be considered, bringing along the design of new pragmatic implications. And further testing, etc. There will be more than enough to do.

First we make sure in a few meetings that the students involved are acquainted with the pragmatics as it has been designed up to now, and with the underlying suppositional inquisitive semantics, which in turn builds on the basic system of inquisitive semantics. Then, as soon as we can, we together decide on the data and extensions we will consider, and divide the work. We regularly meet to discuss progress and problems we may meet. In the end we write up our findings.
The more knowledge of formal semantics and pragmatics the better. But to get the research part properly started without too much delay, acquaintance with basic inquisitive semantics must be a prerequisite. (Course Notes on inquisitive semantics are available via the inquisitive website.)
By quality, quantity and relevance of the research task carried out by the student.