LINGUIST List 32.2686

Thu Aug 19 2021

Calls: Pragmatics, Psycholinguistics/Germany

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 16-Aug-2021
From: Robin Lemke <>
Subject: Discourse obligates – How and why discourse limits the way we express what we express (DGfS 2022, AG10)
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Full Title: Discourse obligates – How and why discourse limits the way we express what we express (DGfS 2022, AG10)

Date: 23-Feb-2022 - 25-Feb-2022
Location: Tübingen, Germany
Contact Person: Robin Lemke
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics

Call Deadline: 22-Aug-2021

Meeting Description:

It is common knowledge that discourse determines to a large extent the way we express what we want to express. In theoretical linguistics, this insight has been described primarily in terms of information structural notions like topic, focus and common ground (CG). For instance, while new, or focused, information typically pushes to the right, given, or backgrounded, information tends to be realized to the left. Similarly, information structure has been argued to license ellipsis and the choice between referring expressions, i.e. a pronoun and a more complex noun phrase.

More recently, information-theoretic approaches have also been taken to account for the choice between alternative encodings of a message, which they model based on Shannon information (surprisal) and the idea that information is distributed as uniformly as possible across a linguistic utterance (Levy & Jaeger 2007). From this perspective, the background-focus split is derived from a tendency for less informative expressions to precede more informative ones, since they contribute to their predictability (Fenk-Oczlon 1989). This information-theoretical approach is becoming increasingly popular and has been successfully applied to phenomena as diverse as word order, complementizer deletion, the realization of discourse connectives, VP ellipsis, topic drop, and fragments (see e.g. Lemke et al. 2020).

One needs to be aware of the fact though that two fundamentally different notions of information are at stake here: semantic information in the case of information-structural approaches, and occurrence probabilities in the case of information-theoretical approaches.

We would like to start a lively discussion on the question whether the two different perspectives relate to each other in an interesting way. This includes, but is not limited to, syntactic variation (e.g. word order and ellipsis), prosodic variation and the choice of referential expressions.

We particularly welcome contributions that focus on the relationship between approaches from information structure and information theory. Which phenomena are better explained by an information-structural or information-theoretic account, and which might require to take into account both of these perspectives?

2nd Call for Papers:

We invite submissions for talks (20 minutes + 10 discussion). Abstracts must be no longer than one page. An additional page for examples, figures, data and references is allowed. Abstracts must be submitted in 12-point font, US Letter size or A4 paper with 1 inch/2.5 cm margins and in PDF format. The files must be fully anonymized and they must be submitted through the form on the workshop website ( Upon acceptance, participants will be requested to submit a de-anonymized shortened version of the abstract for the conference booklet.

Page Updated: 19-Aug-2021