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Variadic Function and Pragmatics-Rich Representation Structures for Propositional Attitude Reports: 

Variadic Function and Pragmatics-Rich Representation Structures for Propositional Attitude Reports K.M. Jaszczolt University of Cambridge Workshop on Semantics, Bruxelles, 27 May 2005


Source and properties of pragmatic inference Truth-conditional pragmatics (TCP, Recanati 2002, 2003, 2004) top-down vs. bottom-up pragmatic inference variadic function Application of variadic function to belief reports TCP or pragmatics-rich semantics? Analysis in DRT-based (van Eijck and Kamp 1997) Default Semantics (Jaszczolt 2005) Rethinking compositionality

Truth conditions: semantics or pragmatics? : 

Truth conditions: semantics or pragmatics? Anna watched The Sound of Music and decided to visit Salzburg. Anna watched The Sound of Music and as a result decided to visit Salzburg. Truth conditions are predicated of a representation that is enriched with the output of pragmatic inference.


Pragmatic intrusionism vs. ‘semantics goes beyond truth conditions’ Can pragmatic enrichment be traced to the constituents of the logical form? TCP: pragmatic enrichment need not be syntactically controlled. Top-down process.


“...various contextual processes come into play in the determination of an utterance’s intuitive truth- conditions; not merely saturation – the contextual assignment of values to indexicals and free variables in the logical form of the sentence – but also free enrichment and other processes which are not linguistically triggered but are pragmatic through and through. That view we henceforth refer to as ‘Truth- conditional pragmatics’ (TCP).” Recanati (2002: 302)

Variadic function: 

Variadic function John is eating. John is eating dinner. Whenever his father cooks, John eats. It is raining. Variable adicity (Recanati 2002, 2005) n-ary relation results in a n+1-ary relation where the nth + 1 argument is a circumstance: a time, a location, a manner, etc.


John is skiing. John is skiing in Poland. Circlocation: Poland (Ski (John)) = Ski_in (John, Poland)

Meaning representations for propositional attitude reports: 

Meaning representations for propositional attitude reports A believes that B φs. Tom believes that the best novelist wrote Oscar and Lucinda. Peter Carey de re reading whoever wrote O&L de dicto reading Ian McEwan de dicto with a referential mistake


semantic ambiguity of belief reports? Modified Occam’s Razor (Grice 1978) no ambiguity in processing belief utterances variable salience of the three readings context-triggered or default? degree of referential intention

Belief reports and compositionality: 

Belief reports and compositionality Tom believes that the best novelist wrote Oscar and Lucinda. (m) (Φ*m & Bel (Tom, <best novelist, wrote Oscar and Lucinda>, m)) Φ*m a contextually given type of mode of presentation


Problems with Φ*m: m does not come from sentence structure and should not be regarded as a constituent of the LF; It is not clear what information falls under m; It is not clear if the content of m has to be consciously accessible to the holder of the belief; LF with Φ*m is overly detailed for the de re reading.


Solution: Φ*m is only present when it contributes to the truth conditions (de dicto proper; de dicto with a referential mistake) and its granularity of content is governed by what is required for representing the meaning. The presence or absence of m can be captured by means of a variadic function: adding an argument place for m in the logical form. This variation is an outcome of top-down pragmatic processes.


Domains of information from which utterance meaning is derived: word meaning and sentence structure cognitive defaults ‘The best novelist wrote Oscar and Lucinda.’ social-cultural defaults ‘Picasso’s painting is of a crying woman.’ conscious pragmatic inference

Principle of compositionality for merger representations:: 

Principle of compositionality for merger representations: The meaning of the act of communication is a function of the meaning of the words, the sentence structure (WS), defaults (CD and SCD 1), and conscious pragmatic inference (CPI 1).


Compositionality as a methodological principle From TCP to pragmatics-rich semantics

Merger representations for belief reports: 

Merger representations for belief reports ‘Tom believes that the best novelist wrote Oscar and Lucinda.’ DRS, Kamp (1990, 1996, 2003) MOD = BEL, DES, INT, [ANCH, a] mode indicators <[ANCH, a], DRS> internal anchor {<a, b>} external anchor <MOD, DRS> attitude description s: Att (x, <MOD, DRS>, external anchor)


A DRS can have truth conditions only if the external anchors can be found (de re). Other readings are not (and need not be) represented. Merger representations have to account for all three readings.


Asher (1986: 129): discourse referents are ‘pegs’ on which the hearer can ‘hang’ the ascriptions of properties that the DRS-conditions specify. In merger representations, we translate anchors into conditions: [Peter Carey]CD(x) default de re [Ian McEwan]CPI1(x) de dicto with a referential mistake [the best novelist]CPI1(x) de dicto proper


‘x believes that C. ’ Bel (x, C) The individual that corresponds to x on a certain interpretation has the cognitive state that corresponds to C on that interpretation.

Summary and final remarks: 

Summary and final remarks Interactive semantics founded on WS, CD, SCD 1, CPI 1 (Default Semantics) Merger representations Merger representations for propositional attitude reports, using (i) variadic function and (ii) representations within representations (C)


Interactive Default Semantics is not an alternative to DRT: it uses its tools ‘one level higher’, to the analysis of acts of intentional communication. Compositionality is predicated of the representations of these acts (merger representations).


Jaszczolt, K.M. 2005. Default Semantics: Foundations of a Compositional Theory of Acts of Communication. Oxford: OUP.

Select references: 

Select references Asher, N. 1986. ‘Belief in Discourse Representation Theory’. Journal of Philosophical Logic 15. 127-189. Cappelen, H. & E. Lepore. 2005. Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism. Oxford: Blackwell. van Eijck, J. & H. Kamp. 1997. ‘Representing discourse in context’. In: J. van Benthem & A. ter Meulen (eds). Handbook of Logic and Language. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science. 179-237. Grice, H.P. 1978. ‘Further notes on logic and conversation’. In: P. Cole (ed.). Syntax and Semantics. Vol. 9. New York: Academic Press. Reprinted in: H.P. Grice. 1989. Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 41-57. Groenendijk, J. & M. Stokhof. 1991. ‘Dynamic Predicate Logic’. Linguistics and Philosophy 14. 39-100. Jaszczolt, K.M. 1999. Discourse, Beliefs, and Intentions: Semantic Defaults and Propositional Attitude Ascription. Oxford: Elsevier Science.


Jaszczolt, K.M. 2005. Default Semantics: Foundations of a Compositional Theory of Acts of Communication. Oxford: OUP. Kamp, H. ‘Prolegomena to a structural account of beliefs and other attitudes’. In: C.A. Anderson & J. Owens (eds). Propositional Attitudes: The Role of Content in Logic, Language, and Mind. Stanford: CSLI Publications. 27-90. Kamp, H. 1996. ‘Some elements of a DRT-based theory of the representation of mental states and verbal communication.’ Forthcoming as Chapter 3 of H. Kamp & U Reyle, From Discourse to Logic II. Kamp, H. 2003. ‘Temporal relations inside and outside attitudinal contexts’. Paper presented at the workshop Where Semantics Meets Pragmatics, LSA Summer School, Michigan State University, July 2003. Kamp, H. & U. Reyle. 1993. From Discourse to Logic: Introduction to Modeltheoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Formal Logic and Discourse Representation Theory. Dordrecht: Kluwer.


King, J.C. & J. Stanley. 2005. ‘Semantics, pragmatics, and the role of semantic content’. In: Z.G. Szabó (ed.) Semantics vs. Pragmatics. Oxford: OUP. 111-164. Recanati, F. 2002.’Unarticulated constituents’. Linguistics and Philosophy 25. 299-345. Recanati, F. 2003. ‘Embedded implicatures’. Recanati, F. 2004. Literal Meaning. Cambridge: CUP. Recanati, F. 2005. ‘It is raining (somewhere)’. Schiffer, S. 1992. ‘Belief ascription’. Journal of Philosophy 89. 499-521. Schiffer, S. 2003. The Things We Mean. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Stanley, J. 2002. ‘Making it articulated’. Mind and Language 17. 149-168. Zeevat, H. 1989. ‘A compositional approach to Discourse Representation Theory’. Linguistics and Philosophy 12. 95-131.

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