David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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This chapter investigates the computational consequences of a broadly Gricean view of language use as intentional activity. In this view, dialogue rests on coordinated reasoning about communicative intentions. The speaker produces each utterance by formulating a suitable communicative intention. The hearer understands it by recognizing the communicative intention behind it. When this coordination is successful, interlocutors succeed in considering the same intentions— that is, the same representations of utterance meaning—as the dialogue proceeds. In this paper, I emphasize that these intentions can be formalized; we can provide abstract but systematic representations that spell out what a speaker is trying to do with an utterance. Such representations describe utterances simultaneously as the product of our knowledge of grammar and as actions chosen for a reason. In particular, they must characterize the speaker’s utterance in grammatical terms, provide the links to the context that the grammar requires, and so arrive at a contribution that the speaker aims to achieve. Because I have implemented this formalism, we can regard it as a possible analysis of conversational processes at the level of computational theory. Nevertheless, this analysis leaves open what the nature of the biological computation involved in inference to intentions is, and what regularities in language use support this computation.
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