Matthijs Westera


PhD Dissertation

Exhaustivity and intonation: a unified theory, to be defended on March 23rd, 2017, at the University of Amsterdam.

This dissertation presents a precise, unified and explanatory theory of human conversation, centered on two broad phenomena: exhaustivity implications and intonational meaning. In a nutshell: (i) speakers have two types of communicative intentions, namely information sharing and attention sharing, (ii) these types of intentions ideally comply with a certain set of rationality criteria, or maxims, (iii) speakers of English and related languages use intonation, in particular so-called trailing tones and boundary tones, to indicate whether such compliance is achieved, and (iv) exhaustivity implications arise when this holds, at least, for the attention-sharing intention.

Paper copies of my dissertation are available upon request.

Attentional Pragmatics and Exhaustivity

The "standard recipe" in the literature is all wrong! Exhaustivity arises from reasoning about attentional strength, not informational strength (Gricean Quantity).

[456K] (slides)
[ 75K] (abstract)
Explaining at-issueness contrasts between questions and assertions, to be presented at Theoretical and Experimental Approaches to Presuppositions, Genoa, March 2017.
[636K] (slides)
[ 74K] (abstract)
How the symmetry problem solves the symmetry problem, presented at DGFS AG2: Information structuring in discourse, Saarbrücken, March 2017.
[336K] (paper)
[156K] (abstract)
[596K] (slides)
An attention-based explanation for some exhaustivity operators, in proceedings (2017) of Sinn und Bedeutung 21, Edinburgh 2016.

More articles

[393K] (paper)
Where the air is thin, but the view so much clearer, in 2013 The dynamic, inquisitive, and visionary life of phi, ?phi and diamond phi, a festschrift for Groenendijk, Stokhof and Veltman. For an update, see my 2016 SuB paper above.
[310K] (paper)
[1.4M] (slides)
Exhaustivity through the Maxim of Relation, presented at Logic and Engineering of Natural Language Semantics 10, October 2013.
[3.1M] (slides)
Exhaustivity without the competence assumption, presented at the Semantics/Pragmatics Colloquium, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, November 2013
[239K] (paper)
[1.6M] (slides)
Attentive pragmatics: an account of exhaustivity and the final rise, presented at the ESSLLI Student Session, Düsseldorf, August 2013
[231K] (paper)
[611K] (slides)
Meanings as proposals: a new semantic foundation for a Gricean pragmatics Presented at the 16th workshop on the Semantics and Pragmatics of Dialogue (SemDial), September 19-21, 2012, Université Paris-Diderot.
[258K] (poster)
[453K] (slides)
[336K] (paper)
Meanings as proposals: an algebraic inquisitive semantics Presented at the 10th Conference on Logic and the Foundations of Game and Decision Theory (LOFT), June 18-20, 2012, University of Sevilla.

More presentations

[607K] (slides)
[176K] (abstract)
Explaining exhaustivity in terms of Attentional Quantity, presented at Logic and Language in Conversation, Utrecht, September 2016
[3.0M] (slides)
Exhaustivity is a conversational implicature, presented at the Semantics Research Group, Keio University, Tokyo, October 2013
[3.0M] (slides)
Exhaustivity is a conversational implicature, presented at the Leiden Utrecht Semantics Happenings, Universiteit Utrecht, October 2013
[1.8M] (slides)
[ 82K] (abstract)
Exhaustivity implicatures and attentive content, presented at Investigating semantics: Empirical and philosophical approaches, Bochum, October 2013
[2.5M] (slides)
Attention, exhaustivity and non-cooperativity, presented at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, October 2013
[227K] (abstract)
[1.4M] (slides)
Exhaustivity through the maxim of Relation, presented at the Tenth International Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic and Computation, September 2013
[2.4M] (slides)
Attention, exhaustivity and non-cooperativity, presented at the Logic and Interactive Rationality seminar, Amsterdam, September 2013
[1.7M] (slides)
An attentive approach to exhaustivity, presented at the International Congress of Linguists, Geneva, July 2013
[224K] (handout)
Inquisitive pragmatics: entailment as relatedness, presented at the Sixth Philosophy and Semantics in Europe Colloquium, Saint Petersburg, June 2013
[297K] (handout)
Exhaustivity, relatedness and the final rise, S-circle talk, April 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz
[1.3M] (slides)
Inquisitive pragmatics: ignorance, possibility and exhaustivity Presented at the Workshop on Questions and Inquisitive Semantics, December 17-18, 2012, FLoV, University of Gothenburg.
[588K] (slides)
Meanings as proposals: an inquisitive approach to exhaustivity Presented at the NAP-day, October 12, 2012, ACLC, University of Amsterdam.

Experimental/corpus work on contextual underspecification

[1.3M] (slides)
Cancellation, underspecification and experimental pragmatics, based on joint work with Adrian Brasoveanu (UCSC), presented at SFB Kolloquium, Düsseldorf, July 2014
[248K] (poster)
[314K] (paper)
Ignorance in context: the interaction of modified numerals and QUDs, joint work with Adrian Brasoveanu (UCSC), presented at SALT, New York, May 2014
[1.1M] (slides)
The QUD-guessing game: how to play it and how to avoid it, based on joint work with Adrian Brasoveanu (UCSC), presented at Questions in Discourse 5, Stuttgart, May 2014

Intonational Compliance Marking

We use rises and falls to convey (non-)compliance with the conversational maxims.

[575K] (slides)
[ 84K] (abstract)
A unifying understanding of RFR, topics and non-at-issue meaning, presented at GLOW workshop 2: Compositionality at the interfaces, Leiden, March 2017
[112K] (paper)
[109K] (poster)
Grounding topic and focus in biological codes, presented at TAL, Nijmegen, May 2014
[198K] (paper)
[1.0M] (slides)
'Attention, I'm violating a maxim!' - a unifying account of the final rise, presented at SemDial, Amsterdam, December 2013
[694K] (slides)
Rise-fall-rise intonation and secondary QUDs, presented at DGFS AG3: Secondary information and linguistic encoding, Saarbrücken, March 2017.
[138K] (handout)
A pragmatics-driven theory of intonational meaning, presented at McGill, Yale, MIT, and Düsseldorf, May/June/July 2014
[1.4M] (slides)
A compositional account of contrastive topic in terms of non-cooperativity, presented at Questions in Discourse, Amsterdam, December 2013
[1.6M] (slides)
[ 75K] (abstract)
The Rise and Fall of Cooperativity, presented at Discourse Coherence, Information Structure, and Implicatures, Düsseldorf, August 2013
[239K] (paper)
[1.6M] (slides)
Attentive pragmatics: an account of exhaustivity and the final rise, presented at the ESSLLI Student Session, Düsseldorf, August 2013
[ 89K] (poster)
Not sure if this is relevant..., presented at Discourse Expectations: Theoretical, Experimental and Computational Perspectives, Tübingen, June 2013
[297K] (handout)
Exhaustivity, relatedness and the final rise, S-circle talk, April 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz

Implicature vs. entailment

Contrary to popular parlour, semantic entailments are in fact weaker than conversational implicatures - though in a somewhat uninteresting sense.

[ 88K] (abstract)
[245K] (handout)
Ideal and actual cooperativity, presented at Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 8, Cambridge 2015
[114K] (abstract)
[187K] (handout)
Giving conversational implicatures the status they need and deserve, presented at Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 7, Berlin 2014
[913K] (slides)
Why semantics is the wastebasket, presented at the Tilburg Research Seminar in Logic and Language, May 2014
[3.1M] (slides)
Grice can do it (but he was wrong about cancellability), presented at LEGO, Universiteit van Amsterdam, October 2013

Lexicon-syntax interface and language evolution

Fundamental questions concerning the lexicon-syntax interface can only be answered by taking into account language evolution.

[594K] (MSc thesis)
Freistaat Flaschenhals, or How the Language Acquisition Bottleneck Shaped the Lexicon-Syntax Interface. MSc Thesis, Utrecht, March 2011.
[ 61K] (abstract)
[307K] (slides)
The inevitable active lexicon Presented at 8th Workshop of Syntax and Semantics, Paris, November 2011. (The slides are flattened (no transitions); download the source .svg here.)
[1.0M] (slides)
How, what for and since when does word meaning influence syntactic composition? Presented at Seminar AI, Utrecht, March 2011.
[ 48K] (abstract)
Reconsidering the code model of communication for simulations of language evolution In A.D.M. Smith, K. Smith and M. Schouwstra, Eds. The Evolution of Language. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language, 2010

Conceptual spaces

A former interest of mine.

Event structure, conceptual spaces and the semantics of verbs With Massimo Warglien and Peter Gärdenfors. Target article (plus comments on comments) in Theoretical Linguistics, Volume 38, Issue 3-4, 2012.
Principles for Concept Combination and Negation The final paper for the MSc course Conceptual Semantics.
Action Representations and the Semantics of Verbs My BSc thesis, in which I connect linguistic phenomena to psychological data, using conceptual spaces as an intermediary level.


[188K] (squib)
''Yes'' and ''no'' according to attentive pragmatics, squib, work in progress.
[292K] (handout)
The inquisitive semantics and pragmatics of modified numerals, February 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz
[560K] (slides)
Modified numerals in inquisitive pragmatics, presented at UGGS, January 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz
Proceedings of the 18th Amsterdam Colloquium 2011 Eds. with M. Aloni, V. Kimmelman, G. Weidman Sassoon, F. Roelofsen, K. Schulz. Springer (2012)
[135K] (paper)
Employing Use-cases for Piecewise Evaluation of Requirements and Claims Together with Boschloo, J., Diggelen, J. van, Koelewijn, L.S., Neerincx, M.A., Smets, N.J.J.M. In Proceedings of the 28th European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics (2010).
[497K] (essay)
Towards a Connectionist Model for Minimalist Syntax A paper written for the MSc course Neurocognition of Language, in which I formulate a number of tentative principles through which a connectionist model could deal with constituent-free minimalist syntax, using a synchrony-based encoding.
[124K] (essay)
Tools, Language and the Aggregate Mind A philosophical paper for the MSc course Philosophy of A.I., reconsidering the Extended Mind Hypothesis. Based on Dennett's homuncular functionalism I argue for an alternative, the Aggregate Mind Hypothesis.