This article focuses on foundational issues in dynamic and static semantics, specifically on what is conceptually at stake between the dynamic framework and the truth-conditional framework, and consequently what kinds of evidence support each framework. The article examines two questions. First, it explores the consequences of taking the proposition as central semantic notion as characteristic of static semantics, and argues that this is not as limiting in accounting for discourse dynamics as many think. Specifically, it explores (...) what it means for a static semantics to incorporate the notion of context change potential in a dynamic pragmatics and denies that this conception of static semantics requires that all updates to the context be eliminative and distributive. Second, it argues that the central difference between the two frameworks is whether semantics or pragmatics accounts for dynamics, and explores what this means for the oft-heard claim that dynamicsemantics blurs the semantics/pragmatics distinction. (shrink)
I suspect the answer to the question in the title of this paper is no. But the scope of my paper will be considerably more limited: I will be concerned with whether certain types of considerations that are commonly cited in favor of dynamicsemantics do in fact push us towards a dynamicsemantics. Ultimately, I will argue that the evidence points to a dynamics of discourse that is best treated pragmatically, rather than as part of (...) the semantics. (shrink)
Over the last two decades, semantic theory has been marked by a continuing shift from a static view of meaning to a dynamic one. The increasing interest in extending semantic analysis from isolated sentences to larger units of discourse has fostered the intensive study of anaphora and coreference, and this has engendered a shift from viewing meaning as truth conditions to viewing it as the potential to change the "informational context".
This article points out problems in current dynamic treatments of anaphora and provides a new account that solves these by grafting Muskens' Compositional Discourse Representation Theory onto a partial theory of types. Partiality is exploited to keep track of which discourse referents have been introduced in the text (thus avoiding the overwrite problem) and to account for cases of anaphoric failure. Another key assumption is that the set of discourse referents is well-ordered, so that we can keep track of (...) the order in which they have been introduced, allowing a semantic characterization of anaphoric accessibility across stretches of discourse. Unlike other dynamic approaches, the system defines semantic values for unresolved anaphors. This leads to a clear separation of monotonic and non-monotonic content (in this case anaphoric resolution) and arguably provides a sound basis for a non-monotonic theory of anaphoric resolution. (shrink)
In 'Sly Pete' or 'standoff' cases, reasonable speakers accept incompatible conditionals, and communicate them successfully to a trusting hearer. This paper uses the framework of dynamicsemantics to offer a new model of the conversational dynamics at play in standoffs, and to articulate several puzzles posed by such cases. The paper resolves these puzzles by embracing a dynamicsemantics for conditionals, according to which indicative conditionals require that their antecedents are possible in their local context, and (...) update this body of information by eliminating the possibilities where the antecedent is true and the consequent is false. In this way, the dynamic analysis draws on insights from the material conditional and contextualist analyses, while explaining how standoffs are genuine disagreements. (shrink)
Understanding the pattern by which complex sentences inherit the presuppositions of their parts (presupposition projection) has been a major topic in formal pragmatics since the 1970s. Heim’s classic paper “On the Projection Problem for Presuppositions” (1983) proposed a replacement of truth-conditional semantics with a dynamicsemantics that treats meanings as instructions to update the common ground. Heim’s system predicts the basic pattern of presupposition projection quite accurately. The classic objection to this program (including other versions of (...) class='Hi'>dynamicsemantics) is that the treatment of binary connectives is stipulative, and other, equally natural treatments fail to make the right predictions about presupposition projection. I give a variation on Heim’s system that is designed to escape this objection. I show that the most liberal possible version of this variant is equivalent to a strong-Kleene system in terms of its definedness conditions. (shrink)
Within natural language semantics, pronouns are often thought to correspond to variables whose values are contributed by contextual assignment functions. This paper concerns the application of this idea to cases where the antecedent of a pronoun is a plural quantifiers. The paper discusses the modelling of accessibility patterns of quantifier antecedents in a dynamic theory of interpretation. The goal is to reach a semantics of quantificational dependency which yields a fully semantic notion of pronominal accessibility. I argue (...) that certain dependency phenomena that arise in quantificationally created contexts require a representation of context wherein the labelling of antecedents is not rigid but rather dynamic itself. I propose a stack-based alternative to classic assignment functions, along the lines of Vermeulen (1993) and van Eijck (2001), and give a dynamicsemantics of quantification which correctly accommodates the problematic anaphoric phenomena. (shrink)
Featured course on "DynamicSemantics" at NASSLLI 2016. Day 1: Introduction. Abstract: Dynamicsemantics is a family of semantic theories that seek to explicate the intuition that saying something changes the context for what follows. We survey the development of formal semantics from static to dynamic formalisms since 1970s. Throughout, we highlight natural language phenomena that motivate dynamicsemantics, and the key pre-theoretical concepts -- information state, update, and discourse referent -- which (...) can be implemented in different ways and thus lead to various dynamic logics. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that anaphoric pronouns should always be interpreted exhaustively. I propose that pronouns are either used referentially and refer to the speaker's referents of their antecedent indefinites, or descriptively and go proxy for the description recoverable from its antecedent clause. I show how this view can be implemented within a dynamicsemantics, and how it can account for various examples that seemed to be problematic for the view that for all unbound pronouns there always (...) should be a notion of exhaustivity/uniqueness involved. The uniqueness assumption for the use of singular pronouns is also shown to be importantto explain what the discourse referents used in dynamicsemantics represent. (shrink)
Featured course on "DynamicSemantics" at NASSLLI 2016. Day 2: Anaphora. Abstract: Cross-linguistic evidence shows that anaphora crucially involves context change. The logical representation system must be able to represent rank-based anaphora, because in every language the favorite anaphors -- e.g. Mandarin zeros, Kalaallisut inflections, English pronouns -- are restricted to refer to top-ranked antecedents (top-level anaphors, like Mandarin zeros or Kalaallisut inflections) or top- or 2nd-ranked antecedents (shallow anaphors, like English pronouns).
Featured course on "DynamicSemantics" at NASSLLI 2016. Day 3: Indexicality. Abstract: Cross-linguistic evidence shows that indexicality, too, crucially involves context change. Speaking up focuses attention on that event and thereby makes it available for discourse reference (by "i", "you", etc). In Kalaallisut, this explains parallel grammatical marking of indexical reference and topic-oriented anaphora. Moreover, shiftable indexicals in Slavey show that certain expressions, e.g. attitude verbs, may update the top perspectival discourse referent from the speech event to an (...) attitude state. (shrink)
Heim 1983 suggested that the analysis of presupposition projection requires that the classical notion of meanings as truth conditions be replaced with a dynamic notion of meanings as Context Change Potentials. But as several researchers (including Heim herself) later noted, the dynamic framework is insufficiently predictive: although it allows one to state that, say, the dynamic effect of F and G is to first update a Context Set C with F and then with G (i.e., C[F and (...) G] = C[F][G]), it fails to explain why there couldn’t be a ‘deviant’ conjunction and* which performed these operations in the opposite order (i.e., C[F and* G] = C[G][F]). We provide a formal introduction to a competing framework, the Transparency theory, which addresses this problem. Unlike dynamicsemantics, our analysis is fully classical, i.e., bivalent and static. And it derives the projective behavior of connectives from their bivalent meaning and their syntax. We concentrate on the formal properties of a simple version of the theory, and we prove that (i) full equivalence with Heim’s results is guaranteed in the propositional case (Theorem 1), and that (ii) the equivalence can be extended to the quantificational case (for any generalized quantifiers), but only when certain conditions are met (Theorem 2). (shrink)
In their target article, Wang and Busemeyer (2013) discuss question order effects in terms of incompatible projectors on a Hilbert space. In a similar vein, Blutner recently presented an orthoalgebraic query language essentially relying on dynamic update semantics. Here, I shall comment on some interesting analogies between the different variants of dynamicsemantics and generalized quantum theory to illustrate other kinds of order effects in human cognition, such as belief revision, the resolution of anaphors, and default (...) reasoning that result from the crucial non-commutativity of mental operations upon the belief state of a cognitive agent. (shrink)
Featured course on "DynamicSemantics" at NASSLLI 2016. Day 4: Temporality. Abstract: Cross-linguistic evidence shows that temporal reference likewise involves context change. In every language, temporal reference is similar to top-level nominal reference, except that instead of updating or referring to top-ranked individuals, temporal grammatical systems update or refer to top-ranked temporal referents (events, states, or times). We discuss and compare temporal reference in two sample languages: tense-based English and tenseless aspect-based Mandarin.
Featured course on "DynamicSemantics" at NASSLLI 2016. Day 5: Quantification. Abstract: In discourse, quantifiers can function as antecedents or anaphors. We analyze a sample discourse in Dynamic Plural Logic (DPlL, van den Berg 1993, 1994), which represents not only current discourse referents, but also current relations by means of plural information states. This makes it possible to analyze quantification as structured discourse reference. Finally, the DPlL analysis is transposed into Update with Centering, to simplify the formalism (...) and relate quantification to earlier discussion in the course. (shrink)
[Note 2015: Much of the content of these remarks has now been published in my paper "Presuppositions as Anaphoric Duality Enablers", Topoi.] This is the text of my comments on the project of dynamicsemantics for the session on that topic at the Central Division APA meeting on April 21, 2007. The other speakers were Jeroen Groenendijk, Frank Veltman and Thony Gillies. I question the philosophical basis for dynamicsemantics. My doubts have to do with the (...) nature of information states and the norms of semantics. I also question the data that inspire the project. In particular, I question the data concerning presupposition and the data concerning modal operators and conditionals. (shrink)
Traditional approaches in deontic logic have focused on the so-called reportative reading of obligation sentences, by providing truth-functional semantics based on a primitive ideality order between possible worlds. Those approaches, however, do not take into account that, in natural language, obligation sentences primarily carry a prescriptive effect. The paper focuses precisely on that prescriptive character, and shows that the reportative reading can be derived from the prescriptive one. A dynamic, non truth-functional semantics for necessity deontic modals is (...) developed, in which the ideality relations among possible worlds can be updated. Finally, it is proven that the semantics solves several of the classic deontic paradoxes. (shrink)
In 1972,Ernst Ulrich and Christine von Weizs ¨acker introduced the concept of pragmatic information with three desiderata:(i) Pragmatic information should assess the impact of a message upon its receiver;(ii)Pragmatic information should vanish in the limits of complete (non-interpretable)'novelty 'and complete 'confirmation';(iii)Pragmatic information should exhibit non-classical properties since novelty and confirmation behave similarly to Fourier pairs of complementary operators in quantum mechanics. It will be shown how these three desiderata can be naturally fulfilled within the framework of Gardenfors' dynamic (...) class='Hi'>semantics of Bayesian belief models.(i)The meaning of a message is its impact upon the epistemic states of a cognitive agent. A pragmatic information measure can then be quanti .ed by the average information gain for the transition from a prior to a posterior state.(ii)Total novelty can be represented by the identical proposition, total con- .rmation by the logical consequence of propositions. In both cases, pragmatic information vanishes.(iii)For operators that are neither idempotent nor commuting, novelty and confirmation relative to a message sequence can be defined within Gardenfors' theory of belief revisions.The proposed approach is consistent with measures of relevance derived from statistical decision theory and it contains Bar-Hillel 's and Carnap's theory of semantic information as a special case. (shrink)
This paper is an informal introduction to some aspects of dynamicsemantics. It is a compilation of earlier reports on joint work with Frank Veltman. The opening section can also be found in Groenendijk et al. 1996a. Section 3 is drawn from Groenendijk et al. 1995a. Some of the discussion in section 4 derives from Groenendijk et al. 1996c.
In 1972,Ernst Ulrich and Christine von Weizs ¨acker introduced the concept of pragmatic information with three desiderata: Pragmatic information should assess the impact of a message upon its receiver;Pragmatic information should vanish in the limits of complete 'novelty 'and complete 'confirmation';Pragmatic information should exhibit non-classical properties since novelty and confirmation behave similarly to Fourier pairs of complementary operators in quantum mechanics. It will be shown how these three desiderata can be naturally fulfilled within the framework of Gardenfors' dynamic (...) class='Hi'>semantics of Bayesian belief models.The meaning of a message is its impact upon the epistemic states of a cognitive agent. A pragmatic information measure can then be quanti .ed by the average information gain for the transition from a prior to a posterior state.Total novelty can be represented by the identical proposition, total con- .rmation by the logical consequence of propositions. In both cases, pragmatic information vanishes.For operators that are neither idempotent nor commuting, novelty and confirmation relative to a message sequence can be defined within Gardenfors' theory of belief revisions.The proposed approach is consistent with measures of relevance derived from statistical decision theory and it contains Bar-Hillel 's and Carnap's theory of semantic information as a special case. (shrink)
PROBABILISTIC APPROACH TO EPISTEMIC MODALS IN THE FRAMEWORK OF DYNAMICSEMANTICS In dynamicsemantics meaning of a statement is not equated with its truth conditions but with its context change potential. It has also been claimed that dynamic framework can automatically account for certain paradoxes that involve epistemic modals, such as the following one: it seems odd and incoherent to claim: (1) “It is raining and it might not rain”, whereas claiming (2) “It might not (...) rain and it is raining” does not seem equally odd (Yalcin, 2007). Nevertheless, it seems that it cannot capture the fact that statement (2) seems odd as well, even though not as odd as the statement (1) (Gauker, 2007). I will argue that certain probabilistic extensions to the dynamic model can account for this subtlety of our linguistic intuitions and represent if not an improved than at least an alternative framework for capturing the way contexts are updated and beliefs revised with uncertain information. (shrink)
Approaches to anaphora generally seek to explain the potential for a DP to covary with a pronoun in terms of a combination of factors, such as the inherent semantics of the antecedent DP, its scope properties, and its structural position. A case in point is Reinhart’s classic condition on bound anaphora, paraphrasable as A DP can antecede a pronoun pro only if the DP c-commands pro at S-structure, supplemented with some extra machinery to allow indefinites to covary with pronouns (...) beyond their c-command domains. In the present paper, I explore a different take. I propose that anaphora is governed not by DPs and their properties; it is governed by predicates and their properties. To use a metaphor from dynamicsemantics: discourse referents can only be ‘activated’ by predicates, never by DPs. This conceptually simple assumption is shown to have far-reaching consequences. For one, it yields a new take on weak crossover, arguably worthy of consideration. Moreover, it leads to a further general “restatement of the anaphora question”, in Reinhart’s words. (shrink)
Prof. Ruth Barcan Marcus created quantified modal logic in 1946. She extended the Lewis calculus S2 to cover quantification. Quantified modal logic became an essential tool for the rigorous study of natural language in the hands of R. Montague in the late sixties. Some complex phenomena cannot be properly handled at the level of sentences. Recent researches in formal semantics have concentrated on discourse and led to a rich amount of results. Logical theories introduced for the logical study of (...) programs play an important role in these developments. We shall present a detailed account of the connection between dynamic logic and “static” logic. The core of the paper will be the translation of dynamic logic into S5. Developping an insight due to Prof. J. van Eijck, We shall offer a simplified version of the latter translation. The paper also relates to P. Gärdenfors' Knowledge in Flux. (shrink)
Dynamic and proof-conditional approaches to discourse (exemplified by Discourse Representation Theory and Type-Theoretical Grammar, respectively) are related through translations and transitions labeled by first-order formulas with anaphoric twists. Type-theoretic contexts are defined relative to a signature and instantiated modeltheoretically, subject to change.
In this paper we discuss the treatment of variables in dynamicsemantics. Referent systems are introduced as a flexible mechanism for working with variables. In a referent system we carefully distinguish the variables themselves both from the machinery by which we manipulate them - their names - and from the information that we store in them - their values. It is shown that the referent systems provide a natural basis for dynamicsemantics. The semantics with (...) referent systems is compared with the familiar formalisms in dynamicsemantics, DRT and DPL. (shrink)
The problem of negative existentials arises because utterances of such sentences have the paradoxical feature of denying what they presuppose, thus undermining their own truth. There are only two general strategies for solving the problem within the constraints traditional static semantics, and both strategies attempt to explain away this paradoxical feature. I argue that both strategies are fundamentally flawed, and that an adequate account of negative existentials must countenance, and not explain away, this paradoxical feature. Moreover, I argue that (...) a framework of dynamicsemantics can achieve this result. Thus negative existentials provide a case in support of dynamicsemantics. (shrink)
In this paper a semantics for dynamic predicate logic is developed that uses sequence valued assignments. This semantics is compared with the usual relational semantics for dynamic predicate logic: it is shown that the most important intuitions of the usual semantics are preserved. Then it is shown that the refined semantics reflects out intuitions about information growth. Some other issues in dynamicsemantics are formulated and discussed in terms of the new (...) sequence semantics. (shrink)
Previous studies of the lexical psycholinguistic properties in second language production have assessed the degree of an LPP dimension of an L2 corpus by computing the mean ratings of unique content words in the corpus for that dimension, without considering the possibility that learners at different proficiency levels may perceive the degree of that dimension of the same words differently. This study extended a dynamic semantic similarity algorithm to estimate the degree of five different LPP dimensions of several sub-corpora (...) of the Education First-Cambridge Open Language Database representing L2 English learners at different proficiency levels. Our findings provide initial evidence for the validity of the algorithm for assessing the LPPs in L2 production and contribute useful insights into between-proficiency relationships and cross-proficiency differences in the LPPs in L2 production as well as the relationships among different LPP dimensions. (shrink)
Semantic realism fits Millikan's account of kind terms in its focus on information-theoretic abilities and strategic ways of gathering information in human communication. Instead of the traditional logical necessity, we should interpret rigid designation in a dynamicsemantics as a legislative act to constrain possible ways in which our belief may change.
There is a puzzle regarding the semantics of quantification that is well-known among linguists and formal semanticists, but which has received relatively little attention from philosophers. The puzzle emerges most naturally if our semantic theory is categorical, satisfying two mutually supporting requirements.
Dynamic Predicate Logic is a variant of Predicate Logic introduced by Groenendijk and Stokhof. One rationale behind the introduction of DPL is that it is closer to Natural Language than ordinary Predicate Logic in the way it treats scope.In this paper I develop some variants of DPL that can more easily approximate Natural Language in some further aspects. Specifically I add flexibility in the treatment of polarity and and some further flexibility in the treatment of scope.I develop a framework (...) that is intended to encourage further experimentation with alternative variants of DPL. In this framework the new meanings are, roughly,indexed sets of old meanings. The indices can be viewed as "files'' or "storage devices.''Each such file supports a separate "information stream.''The interaction of the new meanings is "programmed'' with the help of certain monoids acting on the indices. The construction of the new meanings can be viewed as an application of the Grothendieck Construction to monoids. (shrink)
A dynamicsemantics for epistemically modalized sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to what is known. This essay demonstrates that a dynamic theory about might and must offers elegant explanations of a range of puzzling observations about epistemic modals. The first part of the story offers a unifying treatment of disputes about epistemic modality and disputes about matters of fact while at the (...) same time avoiding the complexities of alternative theories. The second part of the story extends the basic framework to cover some complicated data about retraction and the interaction between epistemic modality and tense. A comparison between the suggestion made in this essay and current versions of the orthodoxy is provided. (shrink)