Location: All Souls College, Oxford
Date: 19-20 March 2018


Amir Anvari, Institut Jean-Nicod
Simon Charlow, Rutgers
Simon Goldstein, Lingnan
Irene Heim, MIT
Karen Lewis, Barnard/Columbia
Zoltan Szabo, Yale


David Boylan, MIT
Ofra Magidor, Oxford
Marie-Christine Meyer, ZAS
Jacopo Romoli, Ulster
Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, ILLC


Daniel Rothschild, University College London
Matt Mandelkern, All Souls College, Oxford


Open to all but registration is required here


Day 0: Sunday, 18 March

Informal Drinks & Food: Turf Tavern, 7:30 PM

Day 1: Monday, 19 March

10:30 Coffee

11-1 Zoltan Szabo, What can be presupposed?

Abstract: There are two main views about presupposition. According to one, (originally hinted at by Peter Strawson and later developed by Robert Stalnaker) presuppositions are manifested prior assumptions. According to the other, (originally hinted at by Paul Grice and later developed by David Beaver, Craige Roberts, Mandy Simons and Judith Tonhauser) presuppositions are backgrounded current implications. To account for informative presuppositions, proponents of the first view introduce accommodation, which leads to empirical difficulties. The second view eschews accommodation of propositions but, I will argue, it leaves us with the need to make sense of accommodation of questions. This is easier done in the sort of framework proponents of the first view have developed. In the paper, I propose a simple model of conversation within which the two views can be synthesized. Within this model we can identify some of the basic norms of conversation guiding what can be asserted, asked, and presupposed.

Comments: Ofra Magidor

1 Lunch

2-4 Simon Charlow, Static and dynamic exceptional scope

Abstract: Static and dynamic theories of indefinites are motivated by the same kind of data – respectively, indefinites’ exceptional quantificational and binding scope properties. Likewise, static and dynamic theories are both oriented around nondeterministic treatments of indefiniteness. These empirical and theoretical considerations suggest that we are owed a unified perspective. This talk gives one, proposing a theory that simultaneously explains the static and dynamic exceptional scope properties of indefinites (quantificational and binding scope), and improves on static and dynamic theories on their own terms (i.e., it does a better job than static theories with scope, and a better job than dynamic theories with binding).

Comments: Jacopo Romoli

4 Coffee

4:30-6:30 Amir Anvari Forks in the theory of local contexts

Drinks receptions

Day 2: Tuesday, 20 March

10:30 Coffee

11-1 Karen Lewis, Descriptions, Pronouns, and Uniqueness

Abstract: Both definite descriptions and pronouns are often anaphoric; that is, part of their interpretation in context depends on prior linguistic material in the discourse. For example:

(1) A student walked in. The student sat down.

(2) A student walked in. She sat down.

One popular view of anaphoric pronouns, the d-type view, is that pronouns like “she” go proxy for definite descriptions like “the student who walked in”. I argue that all existing d-type views encounter a uniqueness problem. The various semantics for definite descriptions on existing d-type theories, which are in the tradition of Russell or Frege, involve uniqueness. But I argue that the truth of discourses like (1) and (2) is compatible with there being more than one (female) student who walked in (even limited to the contextually salient situation). Furthermore, I argue that appealing to who the speaker has in mind yields the wrong truth conditions. The truth conditions for discourses like (1) and (2) seem to be existential, that is, they are true iff at least one (female) student walked in (to the contextually salient place) and sat down. I propose a new semantics for definite descriptions in the Fregean and Russellian tradition that captures all these facts. First, on my view definite descriptions are (restricted) existential quantifiers that presuppose uniqueness. Second, I define two kinds of uniqueness: worldly uniqueness and discourse uniqueness, the latter of which applies to anaphoric descriptions and d-type pronouns qua anaphoric descriptions. I suggest that this fares better than rival dynamic semantic accounts of anaphoric pronouns and definite descriptions.

Comments: Shane Steinert-Threlkeld

1 Lunch

2-4 Simon Goldstein Free Choice and Homogeneity

Abstract: In this paper, I’ll develop a dynamic semantics for disjunction to solve the puzzle of Free Choice permission. I’ll begin by considering a battery of impossibility results showing that Free Choice is in tension with a variety of classical principles, including Disjunction Introduction and the Law of Excluded Middle. Most interestingly, Free Choice appears incompatible with a principle concerning the behavior of disjunctive possibility modals under negation, Dual Prohibition, which says that Mary can’t have soup or salad implies Mary can’t have soup and Mary can’t have salad. Then I’ll argue that all of these results can be avoided by giving up one assumption: the transitivity of entailment. To implement this solution, I’ll propose that the bare disjunction A or B is defined only when A and B are homogenous with respect to their modal status, either both possible or both impossible. When we rely on a notion of entailment that is appropriately sensitive to definedness conditions, we can validate Free Choice while retaining a wide variety of classical principles except for the transitivity of entailment.

Comments: David Boylan

4 Coffee

4:30-6:30 Irene Heim, Do we need plural information states?

Comments: Marie-Christine Meyer

6:30-7:30 Drinks receptions

7:30- Conference dinner Please email one of the organizers if you wish to attend the dinner.

Sponsored by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Grants AH/N001877/1 and AH/M009602/1. Image © University of Edinburgh.