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LINGUIST List 25.943

Tue Feb 25 2014

Calls: Semantics, Pragmatics/Germany

Editor for this issue: Bryn Hauk <brynlinguistlist.org>

Date: 24-Feb-2014
From: Stefan Kaufmann <stefan.kaufmannuconn.edu>
Subject: ESSLI Workshop: Models in Formal Semantics and Pragmatics
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Full Title: ESSLI Workshop: Models in Formal Semantics and Pragmatics

Date: 18-Aug-2014 - 22-Aug-2014
Location: Tuebingen, Germany
Contact Person: Stefan Kaufmann
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site: http://homepages.uconn.edu/~stk12004/Models_ESSLLI2014/

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics; Semantics

Call Deadline: 22-Mar-2014

Meeting Description:


Magdalena Kaufmann, University of Connecticut
Stefan Kaufmann, University of Connecticut

Invited Speakers:

Michael Glanzberg, Northwestern University
Stanley Peters, Stanford University
Thomas Ede Zimmermann, Frankfurt University


The field of natural-language semantics and pragmatics has undergone a shift away from defining or even mentioning models. Indeed, some scholars find their use redundant at best, harmful at worst. A generation of young semanticists got their first encounters with the formal theory through Heim and Kratzer's textbook, which does not mention models at all. There is little open discussion on these developments, but much anecdotal evidence that people have strong opinions about them. This workshop will give the debate a public forum.

Program Committee:

Nicholas Asher, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Jon Gajewski, University of Connecticut
Michael Glanzberg, Northwestern University
Hans Kamp, University of Texas, Austin
Magdalena Kaufmann, University of Connecticut
Stefan Kaufmann, University of Connecticut
Angelika Kratzer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Ernest Lepore, Rutgers University
Barbara Partee, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Paul Portner, Georgetown University
Stanley Peters, Stanford University
Dave Ripley, University of Connecticut
Thomas Ede Zimmermann, Frankfurt University

Workshop Format:

The workshop is part of ESSLLI and open to all ESSLLI participants. It will consist of five 90-minute sessions held over five consecutive days in the second week of ESSLLI. The three invited talks are allotted one hour each, including discussion. On the first day, the workshop organizers will give a 30-minute introduction to the topic. This leaves room for eight submitted papers of 30 minutes each, including discussion.

Final Call for Papers:

Extended deadline: March 22, 2014.

Whatever happened to ''model-theoretic'' semantics? Since Montague's groundbreaking work and throughout much of its history, the field of formal semantics (and later pragmatics) was characterized by the use of models - abstract mathematical structures in which linguistic expressions are interpreted and which serve as the backdrop for stating generalizations about their semantic properties and relations.

Over the last couple of decades, however, the once-prominent status of models has been eroding. In the research literature, explicitly defined fragments and models were the norm in the early days (Partee 1975, 1976; Dowty, 1979), but are now the exception rather than the rule. In teaching, one of the most widely used textbooks, Heim and Kratzer (1998), makes no mention of models, in stark contrast with early standard works like Dowty, Wall and Peters (1981). Aside from such signs of waning interest, there is a small but formidable body of work which actively questions the status of models and finds them to be of limited use at best (Lepore 1983; Higginbotham 1988; Zimmermann 1999, 2011; Glanzberg, t.a.).

Such explicit reflections are rare, however. The overall decline of models in the field is not driven by a general debate, let alone consensus. Nor is the turn away from models a turn towards some non-model-theoretic alternative. What we do see instead is a tendency to stay loosely within the model-theoretic framework, but to enrich it with notions and tools whose formal properties remain largely implicit.

The goal of this workshop is to promote and generate discussion of the past, present, and future of models in natural-language semantics and pragmatics, specifically the implications of their apparent demise for the foundations and goals of the field. Topics for discussion include, but are in no way limited to the following:

What are models, anyway? Commitments about language, reality, and the nature of meaning that a model-theoretic approach to semantic analysis implies. The (special?) status of possible worlds and their relationship to extensional models.

What are models good for? Linguistic phenomena or aspects of meaning in whose analysis a model-theoretic approach has been, or would be, crucial or at least beneficial. The (potential) use of models in treating meaning as variable (e.g., in the analysis of uncertainty about language, or in cross-linguistic and diachronic comparative semantics).

Where do models get in the way? Desiderata for semantic theory and limitations of the model-theoretic approach. Risks and side effects of specific methods associated with the model-theoretic approach (e.g., meaning postulates).

Are we safe without models? Advantages and potential pitfalls of innovative uses of formal techniques or metalinguistic expressions, whose repercussions are underexplored (various kinds of states and events, partial functions, etc.)

What are the alternatives?

Submission Procedure:

Authors are invited to submit an abstract of up to three pages, including examples and/or references (single-spaced, at least 11pt font, on US letter or A4 paper with margins at least 1in or 2.5cm on all sides, in .pdf, .txt, .doc or .odt format). Abstracts must be submitted by March 22, 2014, electronically at the following address:


Authors who are unable to comply with these requirements are welcome to contact the organizers.

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