This book presents one of the first attempts at developing a precise, grammatically rooted, theory of conversation motivated by data from real conversations. The theory has descriptive reach from the micro-conversational - e.g. self-repair at the word level - to macro-level phenomena such as multi-party conversation and the characterization of distinct conversational genres. It draws on extensive corpus studies of the British National Corpus, on evidence from language acquisition, and on computer simulations of language evolution. The theory provides accounts of (...) the opening, middle game, and closing stages of conversation. it also offers a new perspective on traditional semantic concerns such as quanitifcation and anaphora. The Interactive Stance challenges orthodox views of grammar by aruging that, unless we wish to excluse from analysis a large body of frequently occurrring words and constructions, the right way to construe grammar is as a system that characterizes types of talk in interaction. (shrink)
The paper is in two parts. In Part I, a semantics for embedded and query uses of interrogatives is put forward, couched within a situation semantics framework. Unlike many previous analyses,questions are not reductively analysed in terms of their answers. This enables us to provide a notion of ananswer that resolves a question which varies across contexts relative to parameters such as goals and inferential capabilities. In Part II of the paper, extensive motivation is provided for an ontology that distinguishes (...) propositions, questions, and facts, while at the same time the semantics provided captures an important commonality between questions and propositions: factsprove propositions andresolve questions. This commonality is exploited to provide an explanation for why predicates such as know carry presuppositions such as factivity and for a novel account of the behaviour of adverbially modified predicates with interrogative, declarative and fact-nominal arguments. (shrink)
This work concerns itself with characterising the different types of contents that arise from uses of interrogative sentences, describing what meanings get associated with particular interrogative sentences, and explaining how these get put together compositionally on the basis of the meaning of their constituents, with particular attention to the meaning of interrogative phrases. ;Within most recent work in linguistic semantics, questions, the contents of query uses of interrogatives, have been analysed reductively as higher order propositional objects. The current work argues (...) against such an analysis. In its stead a view of questions is offered wherein these constitute the subclass of singular propositional entities, unresolved states-of-affairs , those that contain one or more argument roles of the propositional entity with whom no entity is associated. This view provides for an inherently richer notion of answerhood that is at the same time based on entities that are more plausibly available to cognitive agents engaged in querying. The need for a richer notion of answerhood is prompted by our demonstration that the class of answers to any given question--contents that can be conveyed by acceptable responses--has been considerably under-recognized in past work. An important gain made by the proposed approach is that it reveals and provides a simple account of systematic and cross-linguistically stable contrasts in the ability of a predicate to take an interrogative meaning as an argument. ;Our proposal for characterising the meaning of interrogative expressions argues that there exist three independent classes of uses which interrogative phrases can undergo, which we dub independent, dependent, and reprise uses. We argue extensively against an assumption common to most past work that interrogatives should be viewed as quantifiers on either syntactic or semantic grounds. We propose that dependent and reprise uses of interrogative expressions are each particular instances of use-types applicable to non-interrogative expressions. Dependent uses include bound variable anaphora as an instance. Reprise uses comprehend quotative uses of declarative sentences. We show how combining the general characteristics of each use type with the characterisation of independent interrogative uses we provide enables the defining conditions pertaining to these additional interrogative uses to be derived. This allows for a simple and comprehensive account of the available interrogative meanings. (shrink)
The paper investigates an elliptical construction, Clarification Ellipsis, that occurs in dialogue. We suggest that this provides data that demonstrates that updates resulting from utterances cannot be defined in purely semantic terms, contrary to the prevailing assumptions of existing approaches to dynamic semantics. We offer a computationally oriented analysis of the resolution of ellipsis in certain cases of dialogue clarification. We show that this goes beyond standard techniques used in anaphora and ellipsis resolution and requires operations on highly structured, linguistically (...) heterogeneous representations. We characterize these operations and the representations on which they operate. We offer an analysis couched in a version of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar combined with a theory of information states (IS) in dialogue. We sketch an algorithm for the process of utterance integration in IS which leads to grounding or clarification. The account proposed here has direct applications to the theory of attitude reports, an issue which is explored briefly in the concluding remarks of the paper. (shrink)
One of the success stories of formal semantics is explicating responsive moves like answers to questions. There is, however, a significant lacune concerning the characterization of _initiating utterances_, which are strongly tied to the conversational activity [language game (Wittgenstein), speech genre (Bakhtin)], or—our terminology—_conversational type_, one is engaged in. To date there has been no systematic proposal trying to account for the range of possible _language games_/_speech genres_/_conversational types_ and their global structure. In particular, concerning the range of subject matter (...) that can and needs to be discussed and by whom—ultimately a semantic analogue of Laplace’s demon. We suggest that the subject matter problem for conversational types is a central task for any semantic theory for conversation. This paper develops a theory of conversational types, which embedded in the theory of conversational interaction KoS, enables this problem to be tackled for a wide range of conversational types drawn from the British National Corpus classification of conversational domains. The theory we develop treats conversational types as first class, not metatheoretical entities, in contrast to explications of corresponding notions in game theoretic approaches. We demonstrate that this allows us to explicate the possibilities interlocutors have to refer to and seek clarification about the types of conversations they are engaged in. (shrink)
Clarification requests, queries posed in response to a “problematic” (misheard, misunderstood, etc.) utterance, are a challenge to mainstream semantic theories because they call into question notions such as “shared content” or “the context.” Given their strong parallelism requirements, elliptical clarification requests introduce in addition significant complexities concerning the need for long-term maintenance of non-semantic information in context. In this paper, we consider a puzzle concerning the emergence of elliptical clarification requests in child English: Data from the Belfast and Manchester corpora (...) from CHILDES demonstrate that reprise fragments, the highest frequency clarification request construction among adults, emerges with significant delay in comparison with reprise sluices, bare wh-phrases used to request clarification. This is a puzzling finding a priori: first, since reprise fragments are by most plausible measures the most readily available clarification request form in that it involves mere repetition of material primed by the previous utterance and children have the ability to repeat parts of the previous utterance from the earliest stages of speech. Moreover, as we show, reprise fragments predominate—in some cases vastly so, over sluicing in the input of fragmentary clarification requests available to the child—and it would, therefore, be difficult to construct an explanation for order of emergence primarily based on frequency of the construction in the children's input. Our account is based on grammatical explication of the difference between the constructions, how constructional difference is represented in a hierarchy of constructions, and in terms of a notion of semantic complexity that suggests reprise sluicing is, in fact, less complex than reprise fragments. (shrink)
Quotation has been much studied in philosophy. Given that quotation allows one to diagonalize out of any grammar, there have been comparatively few attempts within the linguistic literature to develop an account within a formal linguistic theory. Nonetheless, given the ubiquity of quotation in natural language, linguists need to explicate the formal mechanisms it employs. The central claim of this paper is that once one assumes a dialogical perspective on language such as provided by the KoS (KoS is not an (...) acronym, despite emphasizing a Konversationally Oriented Semantics) framework, formalized in a rich type theory like Type Theory with Records, much of the mystery evaporates. In particular, one can utilize as denotations for quotative constructions entities that are independently motivated for dialogue processing—utterance types and locutionary propositions, Austinian propositions about speech events. (shrink)
We offer a computational analysis of the resolution of ellipsis in certain cases of dialogue clarification. We show that this goes beyond standard techniques used in anaphora and ellipsis resolution and requires operations on highly structured, linguistically heterogeneous representations. We characterize these operations and the representations on which they operate. We offer an analysis couched in a version of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar combined with a theory of information states (IS).
In this paper we investigate the use of machine learning techniques to classify a wide range of non-sentential utterance types in dialogue, a necessary ﬁrst step in the interpretation of such fragments. We train different learners on a set of contextual features that can be extracted from PoS information. Our results achieve an 87% weighted f-score—a 25% improvement over a simple rule-based algorithm baseline.
Pickering & Garrod's (P&G's) claim that conversationalists do not explicitly keep track of their interlocuters' information states is important. Nonetheless, via alignment, they seem to create a virtually symmetrical view of the information states of speaker and addressee – a key component of their accounts of collaborative utterances and of self-monitoring. As I show, there is significant evidence for intrinsic contextual misalignment between conversationalists that can persist across turns.